Breach of Court Orders and Mental Health Issues

Written by Sam Carroll

April 19, 2017

In the 2016 case of Elliott v Butler EWCA953 it was determined by Lady Justice Macur and Law Justice David Richards that Mental Health difficulties were not sufficient to overturn committal to prison.

In this matter a financial remedy Order was made in 2012 for a family home to be sold. It was within the Order that the husband should vacate the family home once it had been sold and he failed to do so. The wife applied for and was granted various Orders for the husband to vacate however he continued to fail to leave. An order to vacate made in February 2015 incorporated a penal notice stating that the husband would be committed to prison if he failed to adhere to the terms of the Order. As the husband remained in the property the wife instigated committal proceedings and as part of these proceedings it was necessary to determine the state of the husband’s mental health.

Although it was clear that the husband had psychiatric difficulties and seemed to be close to being suicidal he was found to have capacity to instruct Lawyers in respect of proceedings and participate in proceedings. The husband was therefore committed to prison for 6 months.

On Appeal by the husband the Court of Appeal dismissed his application. The Court of Appeal did not feel there was anything in the papers which showed that the husband had struggled to understand the content of the Order and the requirement that he vacate the family home. The Court of Appeal decided that imprisonment of a mentally ill person was not disproportionate in light of the history of the case.

The husband was given time to vacate the property before being committed to prison and further the Judge provided that further medical evidence if necessary could be obtained prior to the warrant of arrest being issued.


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