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Supreme Court appeals in Sharland and Gohil to be heard from 8th June

Court to decide on issues arising from non-disclosure

The appeals in Sharland v Sharland and Gohil v Gohil are to be heard by the Supreme Court from the 8th to 10th June. The appeals will be heard by Lord Neuberger, Lady Hale, Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson, Lord Sumption, Lord Reed and Lord Hodge.

Both cases concern alleged non-disclosure in ancillary relief proceedings.

Sharland
In Sharland the Court will consider:
(1) What is the impact of fraud on:-

(2) In proceedings for ancillary relief, does fraud give rise to separate remedies to those available in other instances of non-disclosure?

(3) Where either fraud and/or material non-disclosure is established, does the refusal by the court to rescind the order (and so reinstate the trial process) wrongly derogate from the victim's right to a fair trial?

Following her divorce, Mrs Sharland brought a claim for financial provision against the respondent, Mr Sharland. The claim came on for hearing in the High Court. Both the husband and wife gave evidence. During the course of the hearing, the parties were able to reach agreement and the hearing was brought to an end. The terms of a draft order were settled and approved by the judge. The wife later discovered that, contrary to what he had said in evidence, the husband had been holding discussions with various investment bankers as part of active preparations for an initial public offering of a successful company. The husband owned about two-thirds of the shares in that company. The wife's solicitors made an urgent application to the court not to seal the order. The wife made an application to resume the hearing of her claim for financial provision on the grounds that her agreement to the proposed order had been obtained by fraudulent non-disclosure on the part of the husband. Her application was dismissed by the judge, the judge finding that she would not have secured a substantially different award had the true position been known. The wife's appeal was dismissed in the Court of Appeal.

The wife now appeals to the Supreme Court.

For the Court of Appeal judgment and summary, please click here.

Gohil
In Gohil the Court will consider the correct approach to a party's application to set aside a final order made in ancillary relief proceedings on the basis that there has been material non-disclosure by the other party.

In 2004 the appellant wife's claim for financial relief from the respondent husband was concluded by way of a consent order. The respondent was subsequently convicted of money laundering. The appellant applied to set aside the 2004 order on the basis that at the time it was made he failed to disclose the true extent of his financial assets.

For the Court of Appeal judgment and summary, please click here.

Ros Bever of Irwin Mitchell, acting for both appellants, said:

"Both cases raise serious issues about how the courts should handle situations where information shared with the court and used to agree a divorce settlement is later found to be false or incomplete. We believe the position that both women find themselves in is unfair and that is why we are taking their cases to the Supreme Court.

"Sadly it is often only the larger cases where there are the funds available to take such cases to the appeal courts. However the issues in these latest cases do not apply only to those where there are large sums at stake; the application is far more wide reaching. The decisions will affect those people with more modest assets and sums involved which is why they are so important.

"I feel for those who aren't able to fund their cases because they can't get legal aid and have no other means of getting help. Separation and divorce is stressful enough without having to worry about whether or not you can afford to go to court. As a result, many people might be forced into sitting back and accepting what they have been told even if they are suspicious about the veracity of their former partner's disclosure."

Mr Sharland's solicitors, James Brown and Beth Wilkins at JMW LLP, said:

"The Supreme Court has the responsibility of considering the respective arguments in Mr and Mrs Sharland's divorce.

"We simply believe it would be inappropriate to prejudice those very important deliberations by taking relevant arguments to the media before they are presented to the Court.

"We are confident, however, that the Supreme Court judges will follow the example of their colleagues in the High Court and the Court of Appeal in agreeing that the provision made by Mr Sharland for both his family and his ex-wife was fair and reasonable."

The proceedings can be viewed live here.

4/6/15