UL v BK: Wife forfeits right to renewed freezing injunction after 'self-help'

Mr Justice Mostyn
I will not comment in detail upon this judgment, as I rather suspect others far more learned than myself will do that (in particular, Mr Justice Mostyn sets out the principles governing the adjudication of freezing applications). Instead, I will limit myself to one point regarding the issue of 'self-help'.

The wife issued her divorce petition on the 7th of February 2013 and on the 21st of February she obtained an ex parte freezing order which, inter alia, prevented the husband from dealing with a property in Marbella said to be worth £10m and froze further assets "presently registered in his sole name" up to a combined value of £20m.

The wife sought the order after finding various documents belonging to the husband. She said the husband had left these documents lying around, but admitted removing some from his briefcase or a filing cabinet. However, it subsequently transpired that she had not been telling the whole truth. The husband sued the wife in the Queen's Bench Division for breach of confidence and misuse of private information, and Just before the hearing in those proceedings she made an affidavit in which she admitted that she had accessed the husband's safe.

The present judgment dealt with the application by the wife for the continuation of the freezing order.

Mr Justice Mostyn described the failure by the wife to state in her affidavit in support of her freezing application that some of the documents derived from her accessing the husband's safe as "a serious breach of her duty of candour". He also found other 'defaults' on her part and said: "Weighing up all of her conduct I have no hesitation in concluding that she has forfeited the right to the exercise of the court's discretion to re-grant an injunction."

Another salutary lesson for those tempted to 'help themselves'.

As I indicated above, expect rather more comment* upon this case in the coming days.

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*Such as here.