Court of Appeal upholds imprisonment of 83 year old husband

In the latest round of litigation in the long-running case of Hart v Hart, the Court of Appeal has upheld the imprisonment of the 83 year old…

In the latest round of litigation in the long-running case of Hart v Hart, the Court of Appeal has upheld the imprisonment of the 83 year old husband for his persistent and serious contempt of court.

In a final order made in financial remedy proceedings, Mr Hart had given an undertaking to assist with the transfer of a company to Mrs Hart so that she would be able to effectively run the company. Instead, Mr Hart removed company records and refused to disclose what he had done with them, before breaching subsequent orders requiring him to provide documents and to take specific steps to reveal the whereabouts of others.

Mr Hart was sentenced in February this year as a result of his persistent contempt, untruthful evidence and lack of remorse. The judge found that his actions were solely designed to put pressure on Mrs Hart and to cause her great expense.

Mr Hart appealed on the basis that the decision to imprison him was wrong and that the sentence was too long.

Permission to appeal was denied by the Court of Appeal, which concluded that the trial judge had "dealt meticulously with the evidence" and "explained why, applying the criminal standard of proof, he was satisfied that the breaches were proved". It found that the judge had acted appropriately and that a 14-month sentence was proportionate.

This decision makes it abundantly clear that the court will not tolerate such flagrant breaches of orders and has demonstrated its powers to punish offenders. It will be interesting to see whether Mr Hart decides to now purge his contempt by co-operating with Mrs Hart to allow her to run the company or if further litigation is required in this long-running matter.

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