Prest v Prest

This case centred around the issue of a husbands non-payment of maintenance and involves an appeal against prison for non-payment of maintenance

The parties had 4 teenage children and separated in 2008 after 15 years of marriage.

During the financial proceedings in November 2011, the husband was conservatively estimated to be worth £37.5m. Those proceedings provided for the following:

  1. Husband pay a lump sum of £17.5m to wife

  2. Until the above payment had been made, he was to pay maintenance of 2% on the outstanding sum until the lump sum had been paid in full.

The Husband failed to make the payments due under point b, and so the wife applied to the court for a Judgement Summons under s5 Debtors Act. Such an application provides that the court can commit to prison a debtor for a maximum of 6 weeks in respect of among other things failure to pay a maintenance order.

In order to succeed with the application the wife had to show that the husband firstly has the means to pay and secondly that he had refused or neglected to pay.

At the hearing of the wife’s application for a Judgment Summons in July 2014, Moylan J found that the husband had had the means to pay and that he had neglected to do so. The husband was sentenced to 4 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 3 months in order to give the husband the opportunity of making the payment due.

Mr Prest appealed to the Court of Appeal. Lord Justice MacFarlane  rejected the husbands 6 grounds of appeal stating

1. The judge’s decisions to refuse an adjournment due to husband’s ill health did not deny him a fair trial.

2. The fact that the same Judge had previously looked into husbands finances did not create a risk that improper account would be taken in respect of those findings.

3. Moylan J drew a clear distinction between the previous findings and the evidence in the case.

4. There was no evidence that wife had encouraged the husband to pay other outgoings rather than the maintenance

5. Husbands application to vary the periodical payments remained outstanding and did not prevent the judge from proceeding with the judgement summons

6. The 4 week prison sentence was not excessive when he was in default of £320,000

Solicitors for Mr Prest have recently indicated their intention of appealing the Court of Appeal’s decision.

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