Mr Justice Mostyn imposed a sentence of nine months immediate imprisonment for non-disclosure. This is thought to be the longest immediate custodial sentence ever imposed for non-disclosure in the family courts. It was found that the husband had defiantly failed to comply with court orders.
The law on committal
Committal for a breach of an order in family proceedings, is the final step in seeking to secure compliance with court orders. An application is made when an order, endorsed with a penal notice, has been breached. The penal notice will have words to the effect of “If you the within-named [ ] do not comply with this order you may be held to be in contempt of court and imprisoned or fined, or your assets may be seized.” The application notice must set out the full grounds on which the application is made, and be supported by an affidavit containing all the evidence. To commit an individual to prison, the court must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the person did not do what they were ordered to do, and that it was in their power to carry out what they were ordered to do.
A committal sentence is designed to not only be punitive, but to be coercive as well. Those individuals who are committed to custody for contempt of court may apply to the court to be discharged, by showing that the person has purged or wishes to purge the contempt.
Al-Baker v Al-Baker  EWHC 3229 (Fam) is an application by Sarah Kimura Al-Baker for the committal to prison of her husband, Abdul Amir Al-Baker, for the breach of two disclosure orders.
The husband and wife were married 45 years ago. In January, the wife issued divorce proceedings in this country and initiated ancillary relief proceedings. The husband subsequently produced a Talaq divorce said to have been pronounced and effected in the UAE. The wife was given permission for her financial claims to proceed under Part 3 of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984. Disclosure orders were attached to the freezing order in the usual form. The ancillary relief claim is made in the context of immense wealth and an exceptionally high standard of living enjoyed by the parties. The disclosures made by the respondent were considered to be partial and had been demonstrated by the wife to be in all likelihood dishonest. Despite the evidence of enormous wealth, the husband had disclosed virtually nothing and the wife had been able to demonstrate that his assertion in relation to the non-ownership of property in Dubai was demonstrably untrue.
The husband was ordered on two separate occasions to give specific disclosure. The orders were backed with a penal notice. Mr Justice Mostyn was satisfied that the orders had been validly served.
Mr Justice Mostyn was satisfied that the husband was aware of the application to commit, as it had been sent to the same Gmail address as the other orders had been sent to, and that he had had a reasonable opportunity to respond to the application.
Mr Justce Mostyn was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the husband had defiantly failed to comply with the disclosure orders that had been made, and regarded it as an exceptionally serious case of refusal to comply with court orders. The disclosure which had been made was shown to be prima facie untrue.
The judge sentenced him to nine months’ imprisonment, backed by a request for a European Arrest Warrant.
Mr Justice Mostyn said “the rule of law depends on compliance with court orders and where court orders are not complied with then the court should take an adamantine approach unless there is good excuse. And no good excuse has been advanced here.”
In imposing such a lengthy and immediate custodial sentence, Mr Justice Mostyn has indicated that court’s frustration and its’ lack of tolerance to those who willingly defy court orders. Mostyn’s remarks signal the Family Court’s intention to enforce its orders and to progress cases.