Scot Young has been sentenced to six months in jail for failing to comply with Court Orders requiring him to make financial disclosure in divorce proceedings.
The Young divorce case has been widely reported in the press. Mr Young maintains that he has no assets, having lost everything in a disastrous business venture. His lifestyle, he says, is supported by friends. Mrs Young maintains that her husband has secreted wealth of up to £400 million.
In financial cases on divorce both parties are required to give financial disclosure supported by evidence. Each party may raise questions on the other’s disclosure. Mrs Young did so in July 2008 asking, amongst other things, for evidence of how Mr Young was supporting himself. Numerous orders were made requiring Mr Young to respond; a six month sentence of imprisonment was imposed in June 2009, but suspended to allow Mr Young more time to respond. He failed to do so.
In November 2012, the High Court made a further order requiring that Mr Young respond, and the Judge made clear that further failure to comply may result in a jail term. Mr Young purported to respond, but some responses were described by the Judge as “absurd” and “next to useless”. To commit Mr Young to prison the Judge had to be satisfied “beyond reasonable doubt” that he had failed to comply with the Court’s order to respond, and it was for Mrs Young to show that this was the case. This standard was found to be met.
The aim of the sentence is not to punish Mr Young, but to secure the information. The Judge made clear that if Mr Young now complied, the sentence may be lifted.
Judges will continue to give litigants every opportunity to comply with orders for disclosure before resorting to committal, but the fact that it has been imposed on this occasion, and the publicity it has received, will send a message that the Court is not willing to allow non-disclosers to ignore their obligations without consequence.
Please contact our Family team for advice on this and related issues.