Date:

Husband’s appeal against a maintenance order of £360,000 has been dismissed by the Court.

Prest v Prest (2015) – another appeal to add to a long line of litigation undertaken by the divorcees.

Background

Linked to the extended proceedings (Prest v Petrodel Resources Ltd. [2013] UKSC 34; [2013] 2 AC 415) between Mr Prest (‘husband’) and Mrs Prest (‘wife’), on 29 July 2014 Mr Justice Moylan granted an action brought by the wife under the Debtors Act 1869 s5.

Mr Prest was held as wilfully in default of a maintenance order in the sum of £360,000. The judge asserted that the payment must be made within a period of three months, by 28 October 2014; or the four weeks imprisonment that was suspended would be the enforced penalty.  The husband has brought an appeal by way of the Administration of Justice Act 1960 s13, the outcome of which we will discuss below.

Grounds for Appeal

The husband raised a number of grounds of appeal including:

  • The decision to refuse an adjournment and continue proceedings, despite the absence of further information regarding the husband’s medical condition did not constitute a fair trial process.
  • The judge took into account material that was not properly admissible and also applied an incorrect burden of proof.
  • There was insufficient admissible evidence before the court to justify the decisions that were made and the judge failed to take into account the various payments that the husband made to the wife or the value of the properties transferred to the wife.
  • The punishment of four weeks imprisonment was defective, too long and inappropriate.

Wife’s Response

Mrs Prest’s counsel, headed by Mr Posnansky QC responded to the grounds of appeal stating that “…the judge was entitled to look at this husband in the context of the overall findings which were that he was an entirely dishonest man”. The wife countered the husband’s claims by reiterating Mr Justice Moylan’s issue with the vague and insubstantial medical reports, which did not elaborate on Mr Prest’s medical condition and thus were not able to provide justification for adjournment.

In response to the claim that the judge had failed to account for payments made to the wife, it was suggested that if the husband was allowed to choose which bills he would pay and have this amount written off the order, it would ‘drive a “coach and horses” through matrimonial finance law’.

Outcome

Dismissing the husband’s six grounds of appeal in the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice McFarlane has reasserted the earlier decision of Mr Justice Moylan. In justifying the rejection of Mr Prest’s application, Lord Justice McFarlane states that it is “not the responsibility of the judge to seek to make good the obvious inadequacies in the husband’s medical evidence”

The Court accepted the wife’s argument stating that the request for adjournment was properly viewed in the overall context of the case, thus including the husband’s evasive behaviour. Lord Justice McFarlane underlined the rightful inclusion of the husband’s conduct, stressing ‘the husband had demonstrated a desire, at every turn, to avoid the adverse impact of the court process upon him’.

The Court concluded that the appeal must be dismissed, leaving the judge’s order of £360,200 standing, albeit with an amended payment date of 4.00pm on Monday 28 September 2015.

It remains to be seen whether Mr Prest will finally pay up!

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

Beverley Jones

Partner - Head of Family Department (Liverpool)

Heading the family team in Liverpool, I am a family and matrimonial expert who deals with all aspects of family law.