Committal for Contempt of Court in Open Court at the County Court sitting at Birmingham: Beattie

|Contempt of Court

Neutral Citation No: [2017] EWHC 1979 (Fam)
Case No: BM13D02591

In the Family Court
Sitting at Birmingham

21 February 2017

Before:

Her Honour Judge Evans-Gordon

Between:

Mrs I Beattie – Applicant

-v-

Mr A Beattie – Respondent

Counsel for the Applicant:  Ms Suzanne Hodgkiss

The Respondent appeared In Person

JUDGMENT

Her Honour Judge Evans-Gordon

 

  1. This is the adjourned hearing of Mrs I Beattie’s (“the Wife”) application for the committal of Mr A Beattie (“the Husband”) for breach of a court order dated 27th June 2016 which required him to file his Form E by 20th August 2016. That order had a penal notice attached to it and was personally served on the Husband by a process server on 30th July 2016.  It was made following the Husband’s failure to comply with a similar order made on 12 January 2016, his failure to attend a First Directions Appointment (“FDA”) on 15th April 2016 when a further such order was made requiring the filing of a Form E by 20th May 2016.  When this deadline passed without compliance the court adjourned the FDA again and, of its own motion, made the Order of 27th June 2017.  The Husband’s Form E has still not been filed.
  2. This application came before the court on 20th January 2017 when the Husband appeared in person. On that occasion he had received a copy of the wife’s application or Notice to Show Good Reason why an Order for Commital should not be made and evidence in support being two affidavits of service made by Sirbjit Singh Samra, process server, sworn on 1st August 2016 and 24th December 2016, respectively and, the affidavit of the Wife dated 12 October 2016.  The affidavit of 1st August 2016 attested to the fact that Mr Samra had personally served the Husband with the Order of 27th June 2016 on 30th July 2016.  The second attested to the fact that on 23 December 2016 Mr Samra personally served the Husband with a copy of the committal application, the Wife’s affidavit in support and the Order of District Judge Gibson of 24th November 2016 which listed the hearing on 20th January 2017.
  3. The Husband told me on that occasion that he remembered that the process server had attended at his home, although he could not remember the precise date, and served him with the Order of 27th June 2017. He told me that he did not challenge the date of 30th July 2017, as set out in the process server’s evidence. The Husband told me that he was aware that he had to file his Form E but had been suffering from depression and was confused and unable to concentrate.  He said he had been to his GP. He did not produce any evidence to support that assertion.  He also stated that he was prepared to file his Form E if given time to do so.
  4. As is apparent from the face of the order of 20th January 2017, the Husband was advised by the Court to obtain legal advice in relation to the commital application immediately and that he should be entitled to free legal advice in relation to that matter as his liberty was at risk. On that day the court provided the Husband with a handwritten order, initialled by me, so that he could seek immediate legal advice. That order adjourned the committal hearing for 1 month and gave the Husband a further opportunity to file and serve his Form E.  He assured the court would he would go from the court directly to a firm of solicitors.
  5. Today the Husband returned to court having done nothing at all. He said he could not find a copy of the envelope given to him at court on 20th January 2017.  He did not or could not explain why he did not attend at a firm of solicitors on the day of 20th January 2017, as he had said he would.  He did not or could not give any reason for not seeking a further copy of the court order.
  6. In the light of the wife’s unchallenged evidence and the Husband’s admissions I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the Husband is in contempt of court in that he was personally served with the order of 27th June 2016, knew that he had to file and serve his Form E by 20th August 2016 and failed to do so without reasonable excuse. I have given him a fair opportunity to obtain legal advice.  He has still not complied with the order.
  7. It seems to me that nothing short of the threat of imprisonment is likely to galvanise the husband into action. However, the object of the exercise is to obtain the Husband’s financial information so that the financial remedy proceedings may proceed and be fairly resolved. For this reason I will suspend the sentence until 8th May 2017, somer 11 weeks, to give the Husband one final opportunity to file and serve his Form E.
  8. I order that the respondent husband, Alan Beattie, of 69 Dearmont Road, Longbridge, Birmingham, B31 4LZ, be committed to prison for a period of four weeks suspended until 8thMay 2017 on terms that he sends his completed Form E to the court and to the applicant wife’s solicitors, Quality Solicitors Davisons at 1886 Pershore Road, Cotteridge, Birmingham, B30 3AS, by 4pm on 8th May 2017.

POSTSCRIPT

Following the judgment I again gave the Husband a handwritten, initialled copy of the Order and the order of 20th January 2017 and advised him to take it to solicitors immediately.  He assured me that he would do so.  In giving him that advice I pointed out that if the financial remedy proceedings proceeded without any information from him the Wife may be awarded half his pension.  Up until that point the husband had sought to portray himself as somewhat helpless but he immediately responded, in a wholly different and more alert manner, pointing out that the Wife has a pension of her own.  This lead me to believe that his previous presentation was not genuine.