Legal news from Aitken Harter Solicitors

Duncan Bannatyne hiding assets from his wife

Recently it has been widely reported that Dragon’s Den star, Duncan Bannatyne attempted to hide assets allegedly totaling £10 million in value from his ex-wife with the intention of reducing her divorce settlement.

The reality is the divorce proceedings took place in 2011. The issue in fact came before the Court as a result of proceedings between a former employee and Bannatyne Fitness Limited. The former employee sought permission to inspect documents held on the Court file as a result of Mr Bannatyne’s divorce. The documents related to information that had been disclosed by Mr Bannatyne within the financial remedy proceedings. During the original proceedings Mr Bannatyne and a third party witness gave evidence that certain documents had been generated on a date later found to be untrue. Mr Bannatyne ‘repented’, set the record straight and later apologised. The financial remedy proceedings ultimately concluded by way of a consent order and undertakings regarding confidentially.

The former employee relied upon Civil Procedure Rule 5.4C

‘The general rule is that a person who is not a party to proceedings may obtain from the court records a copy of –

(a) a statement of case, but not any documents filed with or attached to the statements of case, or intended by the parties whose statement it is to be served with it’

Those representing Mr Bannatyne sought to rely on the case of DV v SL [2015] EWHC 2621 (Fam), in which Mr Justice Mostyn explained that ‘there were some categories of court business that were so personal and private that, in almost every case, the right to privacy would trump the right to unfettered freedom of expression and that, in short, financial remedy proceedings were protected by the anonymity principle’

Those representing the applicant argued however, that

‘(i) there was a very strong presumption of open justice only to be displaced in exceptional circumstances,

(ii) confidentiality did not apply where false information had been given,

(iii) certain material that was covered by the proposed redactions had not, in fact, been given under compulsion and were not, therefore, protected and

(iv) such had been Mr Bannatyne’s conduct publicising his divorce that it was clear that the concerns were not over confidentiality but rather over avoiding embarrassment.

The Judge was not persuaded by the fact that the evidence had been rectified. “In my judgment, there is a public interest in making it clear that if someone does provide false evidence to a court, with a view to misleading the court for their own financial gain, or for the financial gain of an associate, then it will do them no good to admit that fact without fear of repercussion… disclosure which is not full, frank and honest should be publicised.”

By Emma Davies: Aitken Harter Solicitors

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