Reaction To Court Of Appeal Decision In Sharland Divorce

Lawyers To Seek Permission To Take Divorce Case To Supreme Court


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

By a majority of two-to-one the Court of Appeal today dismissed the appeal of Alison Sharland against a decision of Sir Hugh Bennett to hold her to an agreement she entered into with her ex-husband despite the subsequent discovery that he had seriously misled her in the run-up to the agreement.

In 2012 Mr Sharland told Mrs Sharland and the Court that there were no plans for his company to be floated on the stock exchange, and that he anticipated that such a flotation – if it happened at all - would be some years away.  This was inaccurate.  In fact, the company was actively preparing for flotation and Mr Sharland was preparing to attend important meetings with the company’s bankers even as he was in the witness box denying that such plans existed.

As a result, Mrs Sharland reached a deal with her husband which was based upon accountants’ projections of the value of the company, and not upon the value anticipated on flotation.  Had she known the truth, Mrs Sharland would never have given her agreement.

But Sir Hugh Bennett considered that Mr Sharland’s dishonesty was not “material”.  He held that the deal which Mrs Sharland reached with Mr Sharland provided properly for her and was fair. By a majority, the Court of Appeal held that Sir Hugh was right.

Mrs Sharland is disappointed by the Court’s decision.  But she is buoyed by the powerful dissenting judgment of Lord Justice Briggs.  He considered that Mr Sharland’s conduct was fraudulent and referred to the general principle that “fraud unravels all”.   His judgment specifically recognised the “abiding sense of injustice” which Mrs Sharland currently feels.

Mrs Sharland, together with her legal advisers, believe that this case raises points of law of general public interest and intend to seek permission to appeal at the Supreme Court.

Ros Bever, a specialist family and divorce lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Mrs Sharland, said: “Mrs Sharland had accepted a settlement that is based on inaccurate information disclosed by her husband so the agreement she believed she had reached for half of the couple’s assets does not give her an equal share; a crucial requirement for Mrs Sharland throughout the negotiations.

“This case is not just about Mrs Sharland achieving justice, it is about ensuring that the Courts send out a powerful message that dishonesty will not be tolerated, proving that fairness will prevail in divorce settlements.

“The case is the latest in a line of high profile cases, including Petrodel v Prest, and Young v Young, where spouses have seemingly defied the principles of fairness in divorce settlements, often using their businesses to ‘disguise’ their wealth.

“We believe that this case now needs to be examined at the highest level in order to protect future claimants from fraudulent and dishonest behaviour. The husband would not get away with this behaviour in the commercial courts so why should it be acceptable in the family court?”

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