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Ruling On HMRC’s Request For Charman Divorce Papers ‘Shows Consistency’

Family Law Expert Comments On High Court Decision


A family law specialist at Irwin Mitchell has welcomed a ruling which means that an insurance tycoon does not have to hand over documents used in divorce proceedings to HM Revenue and Customs.

The government body’s application wanted to gain access to documents used during the divorce of John Charman from his former wife Beverley in 2006 – a case which saw the largest payout in British legal history.

However, the request for the information – which related to an appeal made by Mr Charman over a multimillion pound tax dispute – has been dismissed at the High Court.

According to Mr Justice Coleridge, after balancing the competing public interests, he felt that Mr Charman had complied with rules of disclosure and therefore such confidentiality should not be breached.

John Nicholson, a Partner and family law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s London office, said the decision demonstrated the accepted view on such issues during divorce proceedings.

He outlined: “There has always been a convention in financial proceedings during a divorce that, where financial disclosure is given under compulsion, such disclosure is confidential and its use is confined to those specific proceedings.

“This is unless there is clear evidence of serious dishonesty in relation to, for example, tax payments in which case judges have the discretion to make referrals to HMRC.

“In the majority of cases, financial disclosure is provided following the issuing of proceedings by one party, following which the court's rules order the production of the relevant information – ie. it is provided by the parties under compulsion.

“Thus Mr Justice Coleridge was simply applying the usual test in such cases and his order is entirely consistent with established practice."