Law: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Guest Walker Enterprise. Its mission;. to boldly go where no blogger has ever gone before…to split infinitives and find captivating, engrossing legal news.
Find something useful, interesting and positive I was told. Hell, I might even want to link it to a legal website, law magazine or article.
So here I find myself, dear reader, looking for some legal news and views that draws you into the frontier world of “The Law”.
Tentatively I delve into the latest legal headlines – “Master of the Rolls to get new IT system in 2015”, or “Law Society expresses concern on latest EU tax”. Jeez, there are some real page-turners here. So turning the pages over, and over – skipping lightly over further tantalizers like “What level will the new exemption for costs budgeting in the Commercial Courts be set at?” (I do like a snappy title), I alight upon the pages for Family Law reports.
Hold on – what’s this I see…? “Millionaire wins divorce case despite finding of perjury.” This is more like it. This is Family Law at its salacious best – subterfuge, big money and scandal.
Mr and Mrs Sharland married in 1993. Mr Sharland, a farmer’s son, had aspirations as a software entrepreneur and in a dazzling career spin, built up a company worth millions by the time he was in his forties. The family were able to live in the affluent area of Wilmslow where Mrs Sharland set up and ran a charity for autism and cared for their disabled son. Not all was successful in their lives however, and in 2010 the couple separated as the marriage broke down.
After convincing his wife that his company was worth in the region of £32 million, Mr Sharland got her to settle in the sum, of £10.4 million. A hefty amount you may think – and you’d be right. It might all have ended there. Unfortunately for Mr Sharland, it did not. He had been asked if his company was going to be floated on the stock exchange, to which question he gave resounding “No.” He lied dear reader, he lied. He was in fact preparing a floatation of the Company at the time of the questioning. Moreover, as is the way with these things, his Company was expected to be worth much more as a result – about £450 million pounds more.
Mrs Sharland appealed. In December of last year the Appeal Court Judges heard all the evidence and have now released their judgement. They agreed that Mrs Sharland had been “cheated” and that her husband’s lies had been “deplorable”. The words “perjured himself” and “material fraud” were mentioned. Huzzah for English Justice you might say. (Well you might say it if you were a character in an episode of “Sharpe” or “Hornblower”). You read the title to the report so you and I both know that things did not entirely go as Mrs Sharland might have expected. Having made these encouraging noises, the Judges shrugged their collective shoulders and allowed the original order to go through. They leaned on the tired old “floodgates” argument that if all divorce cases were re-opened after every lie was discovered, why the system would become grindingly slow y’know. Unbloomin’ believable!
I am happy to add my opinion to that of the one dissenting Judge. As a jobbing lawyer I find that those of us without millions to cover up have a tendency to be more open in their dealings. Either that or they just can’t summon up the bare-faced brazen cheek to forget the odd £450 million in their evidence. I also find good legal skills and technique can winkle out the odd porky pie. The dissenting judge, Lord Justice Briggs found another reason not to hold onto the Order, which was that in any other Court, perjury would be punished as such and that there should be no exceptions in Family Law. The existing order he said, was tainted by fraud and when deciding if a man should benefit from such an Order “I have come nowhere near being persuaded he should do so.” Those are pretty demining words as far as these things go. It was a way of saying to the wife, go and appeal higher, you might just win.
So I will keep my eye out for any developments but for the time being – I’m blogging off.