Weekly Family Law Update December 5, 2020

Domestic abuse, costs and the most expensive case

Abuse victims advised to take civil action due to criminal system delays

A report by the charity Victim Support on the impact of the pandemic upon victims of domestic abuse has found that the pandemic has created additional barriers to victims’ engagement with the criminal justice system, with many victims and survivors facing considerable waits for trial. Some cases, they say, have been delayed up until 2022, leaving many victims feeling like they cannot move on.

The report reveals that support workers have found that victims are being told to pursue the civil routes, for example applying for non-molestation orders, rather than the criminal justice process.

The charity says that court delays have had a wider effect on victims’ confidence in the criminal justice system, with long delays potentially leading to victims no longer wanting to support the prosecution.

Victim Support warns that delays to trials cause significant disruption to victims’ recovery process, leaving them in limbo for longer, feeling distressed and potentially having an impact on their willingness to take part in the justice process. For some, they say, justice delayed could be justice denied.

Increase in domestic abuse offences during pandemic

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics has published data assessing the impact of the pandemic on domestic abuse in England and Wales.

The data shows that the number of domestic abuse offences recorded by police in England and Wales has increased during the pandemic. Police recorded 259,324 domestic abuse offences between March and June – 7% up on the same period in 2019.

The data also showed that there has generally been an increase in demand for domestic abuse victim services during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly affecting helplines as lockdown measures eased; this does not necessarily indicate an increase in the number of victims, but perhaps an increase in the severity of abuse being experienced, and a lack of available coping mechanisms such as the ability to leave the home to escape the abuse, or attend counselling.

Mother ordered to pay father’s costs in children case

The High Court has ordered a mother to pay a contribution towards the father’s legal costs in proceedings concerning arrangements for their son.

Hearing the case Her Honour Judge Corbett accepted that costs orders are rarely made in private law children proceedings, but she said that this was a case where, in her judgment, the mother’s conduct was unreasonable. In particular, the mother had failed to comply with a court order requiring her to file evidence, had failed to respond to communications from the father’s solicitors, and had essentially failed to engage in the proceedings until just days before the final hearing.

HHJ Corbett concluded that the mother’s conduct went far beyond what was reasonable, barely making any effort to engage in the proceedings, which were justifiably commenced by the father. Her conduct greatly added to the father’s legal costs.

In the circumstances, HHJ Corbett decided that it would be just to order the mother to make a contribution to the father’s costs, in the sum of £15,000.

Most expensive family case back in court

And finally, the most expensive divorce case in history is back in court this week.

In 2016 Tatiana Akhmedova was awarded £453 million by the High Court in London, the largest divorce settlement ever in this country. However, her former husband Farkhad Akhmedov, an oligarch and ally of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has failed to comply with the order.

The case is now returning to court as part of Ms Akhmedova’s ongoing efforts to enforce the award. She alleges that Mr Akhmedov transferred cash and assets to their son Temur, in order to avoid paying her the money. Mr Arkmedov and Temur deny the allegation.