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Family lawyers praise High Court for jailing husband

Scot Young imprisoned for contempt after failing to disclose finances

17 January 2013

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The decision of the High Court to imprison Scot Young, a man whose wife Michelle believes is worth up to £400m, has been welcomed by family lawyers.

Young was jailed for six months for contempt after failing to disclose financial information. He had already received a six month suspended sentence in 2009 for failing to answer financial questionnaires. Elizabeth Hicks, partner at Irwin Mitchell in London (pictured), said the sentence “should serve as a warning to spouses that the courts, which for so long have sat back in the face of wilful lack of co-operation, may be getting tougher”.

She went on: “Mr Justice Moor, one of the new breed of no-nonsense Family Division judges, has made it plain that feeble excuses will not wash, and the penalty for not co-operating fully may be rather more serious than a verbal rap across the knuckles in the courtroom, or even a fine or costs order against the guilty party.

“It remains to be seen whether a fairly brief spell in prison will persuade Mr Young to produce what numerous more commonplace orders of the court have failed to achieve.”

Ayesha Vardag, managing director of Vardags, who first obtained the suspended sentence against Young, said: “This is a great day for Michelle and for all claimants being given the runaround by non-disclosing spouses. The courts are finally taking a stand and showing they have teeth.”

Ruling in Young v Young [2013] EWHC 34 (Fam), Mr Justice Moor said the matter had a long history.

“In essence, the husband says he is penniless and bankrupt. The wife, on the other hand, contends that he is a very wealthy man worth up to £400 million. She says he has hidden his entire resources to avoid his legitimate obligations towards her and the children.

“I make it clear that I am not deciding that dispute today. It is, however, equally clear that, to be able to decide where the truth lies, it is vitally important that the husband provides full and frank disclosure of his financial circumstances, to include the relevant documentation to support his contentions.”

Moor J said Young was guilty of a “flagrant and deliberate contempt over a very long period of time” and six months was the shortest sentence he could impose.

However, he said Young could at any time apply to purge his contempt by complying with the disclosure orders.

Winckworth Sherwood and Edward Fitzgerald QC acted for Michelle Young. Scot Young represented himself.

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Marriage & Civil partnership