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Appeal judges rebuke divorcing couple over expensive privacy row

25 November 2010

Divorcing couples should not use the threat of publication of a court ruling as an aid to enforcement of ancillary relief decisions, the Court of Appeal has said as it overturned a judgment granting a shipping tycoon anonymity.

Panaghis Lykiardopulo, who heads one of the oldest Greek ship-owning families, was ordered by Baron J last year to transfer £20m worth of assets and cash to his former wife after it emerged that he had deliberately sought to shield some of his assets from the matrimonial pot.

At the same time he secured an anonymity order on the grounds that publication of the husband’s name would be detrimental to his business and would affect his health.

Allowing the wife’s appeal against the anonymity order, Lord Justice Thorpe issued a warning to other feuding couples last week, saying “a great deal of legal expertise, no doubt at great cost to the parties, has been devoted to the struggle to establish either full public scrutiny or no public scrutiny of the outcome of the hard fought ancillary relief proceedings. The effort and expense hardly seems proportionate.”

The senior judge said in Lykiardopulo v Lykiardopulo [2010] EWCA Civ 1315 that the exchanges between the parties showed that public reporting for public policy reasons, as initially argued by the wife, “had slid into public reporting as an aid to enforcement”.

In divorce proceedings, the judge said, the parties owed the court a duty of “full, frank and clear disclosure”, and deliberate breaches of this duty by commission was “plain perjury”.

But should publication in cases of iniquity in litigation be encouraged for policy reasons, the judge wondered?

Rejecting the husband’s arguments that publication would adversely affect his business interests, Thorpe LJ said, given the international nature of the business, the commercial standing of the husband’s family could “hardly be threatened by a public judgment”.

“Litigation misconduct in a justice system that many other jurisdictions regard as fundamentally unfair to husbands would have no impact on their reputation for fair dealing in business”.

Seeing publication as an aid to enforcement had been “the driving force of this expensive satellite litigation”, the judge continued, even though it should be kept as a separate question.

But, concluding in favour of the wife, Thorpe LJ said: “If this signals a shift in the practice in cases in which the judge has found significant breach of the duty by commission then I believe that the shift is both principled and practical.”

Lord Justice Stanley-Burnton and Lord Justice Tomlinson agreed.

Categorised in:

Financial services & Tax Divorce Procedures Local government