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Husband wins in Court of Appeal in Imerman case

Court of Appeal decides that information copied from husband’s computer cannot be used in ancillary relief proceedings

The Court of Appeal has given judgment in the latest battle in the divorce proceedings between Vivian and Elizabeth Imerman.

Delivering the judgment of the court, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, ordered that documents copied from a computer of the husband must be returned to him in accordance with an order of Mr Justice Eady in the High Court.

The husband shared office space and a computer server with the wife's brothers.  Around the time that the wife issued divorce proceedings in December 2008, the brothers downloaded password protected files relating to the husband's personal dealings from the server.  The downloaded documents were provided to the wife who in turn passed them to her solicitors.  The material was initially held in 11 lever arch files.  The wife's solicitors went through these and filleted out material and returned to the husband that which they considered to be privileged.  This left 7 lever arch files in the wife's solicitor's possession.  The material had been read by the wife, some of her solicitors and at least junior counsel but not the court. 

The Court of Appeal decision undermines the Hildebrand rules which permitted that documents obtained, copied and immediately returned could be used in ancillary relief proceedings provided that force was not used in obtaining them. 

An application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court will be made at a hearing on Friday afternoon, 30th July.

The judgment and summary, written by Christopher Pocock QC, can be read in full here.