Hart v Hart, Court of Appeal - Family Division, November 05, 2018, [2018] EWHC 2966 (Fam)

Resolution Date:November 05, 2018
Issuing Organization:Family Division
Actores:Hart v Hart
 
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Case No: BM11D02463

Neutral Citation number: [2018] EWHC 2966 (Fam)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

FAMILY DIVISION

Bristol Court

Date: 05/11/2018

Before:

HIS HONOUR JUDGE WILDBLOOD QC

SITTING AS A JUDGE OF THE HIGH COURT

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Between:

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Peter Mitchell for the --Applicant--------

Ben Williams for the third and fourth Respondents

(The other parties did not appear)

Hearing date: 5th November 2018

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JUDGMENT(sentencing of Susan Byrne and Halesowen Estates Limited)

HHJ Wildblood QC :

  1. In my opinion, this is a ridiculous situation which is brought about by a steadfast refusal to obey court orders. No judge, myself included, would ever wish to be in the position of having to sentence an otherwise highly respectable and respected 65 year old woman, a committed family member, for contempt arising out of the divorce proceedings between her brother and her former sister-in-law. However, that is the position in which I now find myself and there is no avoiding it.

  2. On 24th October 2018 I gave a judgment in which I found that Mrs Byrne and Halesowen Estates Limited (`Halesowen') were both in contempt of court. That judgment has been published in accordance with the Practice Direction issued on 26th March 2015 by the former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, and is reported on the Bailii website under the neutral citation of [2018] EWHC 2894. On 23rd February 2018 I had found that Mr Hart was in contempt of court and, on 15th March 2018, I sentenced him to a total term of 14 months imprisonment. In the judgment of 15th March 2018 I listed the specific documentation that had not been produced and I also set out the principles of sentencing that I applied, making reference to the decision in Crystal Mews Ltd v Metterick and Others [2005] EWHC 3087 (Ch). I will not repeat here all that I said about the principles of sentencing in that judgment.

  3. Given the fact that, at the relevant times, the shares in Halesowen have been owned by Mrs Byrne and she has been the only director of the company, I do not intend to impose any separate penalty against the company. Therefore, from now on, this judgment records the sentence that I have decided must be imposed as a result of the contempt that I have found to have been committed by Mrs Byrne.

  4. In deciding upon the sentence that I impose upon Mrs Byrne I take into account the following particular mitigating factors and matters of principle:

    i) She is a woman of good character who has made a long-standing and positive contribution to society. I have received an extensive amount of information on this issue and people have been good enough to write very impressive references for her, all of which I have read. As one referee wrote: `It would be a great tragedy for all whom are close to Susan should she receive a custodial sentence. A wife, mother, a grandmother and an amazing friend and any amount of time would be a sad loss of time with her loved ones.'

    ii) She is in her mid-60's (her date of birth is 20th December 1952)...

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