Committal for Contempt of Court in Open Court at the Family Court in Leicester

|Contempt of Court

In the Leicester Family Court

Case No: LE11D00895

5 June 2015


Diane Lesley Middleton – Applicant


Richard James Middleton – Respondent

Judgment 5 June 2015

HHJ Judge George:


  1. This is an application in family proceedings for Richard Middleton to be committed to prison for breaching an undertaking given to the court under an order dated 27 February 2014. Paragraph A iii) of that order records the respondent’s undertaking to, “fully co-operate with the appointed estate agents in respect of all the properties in respect of which there are orders for sale, to permit accompanied viewing, to keep the property in reasonable condition to facilitate those viewings and not to make adverse comments about the land or property in front of any potential purchasers”
  2. In her application, the Applicant, represented by Ms Scott, complains that the respondent has failed to fully co-operate with the appointed estate agents who are Andrew Granger and Co, by failing to sign their agency agreement and approve the Particulars of Sale to enable them to sell one of the properties to be sold namely, Church Farm House, Sileby.
  3. The agency agreement was sent to both parties in April 2014. Mrs Middleton signed and returned hers. On 10 June the agents wrote to say they had not had the form back from Mr Middleton. On 18 June Mrs Middleton’s solicitors wrote to Mr Middleton asking him to make contact with the estate agents so they could arrange to value the property.
  4. Mrs Middleton’s solicitors wrote to the solicitors acting for Mr Middleton on 24 June 2014 asking them to ensure their client co-operated with the sale because the estate agents had still not heard from him. By 3 July the agents had been able to carry out an inspection of the property and prepare Sales Particulars.
  5. On 2 September 2014 the estate agents sent out a second agency agreement to Mr Middleton for his signature and return. On 16th September 2014 another copy of the agency agreement was sent to Mr Middleton’s solicitors for them to get him to sign. They were reminded of the terms of the undertaking Mr Middleton had given to the court. To date no signed agency agreement has been received by the estate agents from Mr Middleton.
  6. In his evidence to the court, Mr Middleton who represented himself said that he had signed the first agency agreement and returned it to the agents. It disappeared. He said he signed a new one yesterday but had not brought it to court. He was willing to sign another one in court today and duly did so during the course of the hearing.
  7. Mr Middleton said that he probably never opened the post from the agents sending the other agreement to him. He offered no explanation for failing to respond to the letters from solicitors asking him to contact the agents and to sign the agreement. He appeared disinterested in the process and from time to time whistled to himself during the hearing.
  8. The court found that Mr Middleton had failed to comply with his undertaking to the court set out in the order dated 27 February 2014. The court found it unlikely that he had signed the original agreement and returned it to the estate agents but even if he had, he had deliberately ignored further attempts to get him to co-operate with the sale and to get him to sign another copy of the agency agreement without which the estate agents could not market the property. He had been made aware that the agents were still awaiting the agreement and had not yet received it. He had signed a copy of the agreement yesterday and again at court today as a consequence of having been served with committal proceedings.
  9. The court noted that Mr Middleton had now co-operated with the first part of his undertaking and had said that he would comply with the other directions sought by the Applicant to enable the sale to proceed. The court sentenced him to 14 days imprisonment suspended for 2 years for the breach of the undertaking.
  10. In accordance with the Practice Direction dated 26 March 2015 Richard James Middleton is committed to prison for 14 days suspended for 2 years for breaching his undertaking to the court dated 27 February 2014. The particulars of the breach are that he failed to co-operate with the appointed estate agents in respect of the sale of Church Farm House, 33 Little Church Lane, Sileby, Leicestershire.
  11. The court shall provide a transcript of this judgement to the parties and also attend to the publication of the judgement in accordance with the Practice Direction.


HHJ George
5 June 2015