Posted on 15.12.15
Despite attempts to conceal the news, it has come to light that former Dragon’s Den star, Duncan Bannatyne, misled the Family Court by giving false evidence during his second divorce in 2012. The I’m a Celebrity star thought to be worth £187m made false declarations over the value of a severance package drawn up for associate Graham Armstrong, who ran one of the dragon’s fitness companies until 2014.
The statements were an attempt to reduce the value of the business by concealing £10m from his wife’s solicitors. It is reported that the value of the package was £6m, but it was never approved by the Board of Directors at Bannatyne Fitness. Nevertheless Bannatyne reported the £10m package had been approved by forging board minutes and backdating the severance agreement to January 2010 and annexed these documents to his financial statement submitted to the Court. Civil litigation between Bannatyne and his former associate is on-going.
Bannatyne tried to obtain a gagging order to prevent The Mail on Sunday from reporting the wrong-doing claiming that his divorce should remain private and confidential. A six week legal battle ensued with Associated Newspapers and Judge David Hodge in the High Court found in favour of the newspaper stating:
“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 any repercussions”.
In my judgment, the public interest lies in exposing attempts to mislead the court, even if the person making such attempts then repents of what he has done and corrects the situation. There can be no public interest in inhibiting full, frank and honest disclosure to the court; but there is a public interest in encouraging full, frank and honest disclosure, and disclosure which is not full, frank and honest should be publicised.”
What is full and frank disclosure?
Ascertaining the totality of the matrimonial assets in divorce is achieved by a process known as disclosure. Full and frank disclosure is a process where divorcing parties’ exchange full, frank, clear and accurate disclosure of their financial positions and other relevant circumstances, usually by way of a Financial Statement known as Form E. The disclosure process can be completed on a voluntary basis, but if there are concerns over the information provided, or disagreement over the assets to be included then either party can issue proceedings with the Court who will order exchange of disclosure to take place. No financial asset whatever its provenance is excluded from the disclosure process. Both parties’ have a duty to the Court to comply with this and are required to sign a Statement of Truth which confirms that the facts given within the Financial Statement are true.
Risks for non-compliance
There can be significant consequences if a party is found to have provided false disclosure or attempted to mislead the Court in any way. Bannatyne is also at risk of further proceedings being brought by the Crown Prosecution Service for perjury or contempt of Court which could lead to imprisonment or a fine. A party can also be penalised in costs by the Court ordering them to pay some or all of the legal costs of the other party.
What’s the big deal?
It is only once the disclosure process has taken place that your solicitor can ascertain the entirety of the matrimonial assets available for division, thereafter they can advise you as to how the matrimonial assets should be divided taking into account all the circumstances of your case.
Put simply, failure to provide full and frank disclosure means lawyers and the Courts are unable to ascertain what would be a fair settlement in a particular case. If the failure is found to be material then it will not be ignored by the Family Courts and can result in Orders being set aside and further litigation. Therefore it is in both parties’ interests to provide full and frank disclosure so that any Order is final and indisputable.
To discuss any of the issues raised above with me or our fantastic family and matrimonial team, call us on 0343 507 5151.