Letting Agent Jailed for Defiance of High Court Asset Freezing Order

The foundations of the legal system would totter if judicial orders were not rigorously enforced and that is why people who disobey them can expect stern punishment. In a case on point, a woman was jailed for repeatedly breaching an asset freezing order even though that meant separating her from her young son.

housesThe woman was sole director and shareholder of a letting agency which received rent in respect of a property which was not passed on to the landlord as it should have been. After it emerged that the money had been paid to her, and that she had spent it, the landlord launched debt recovery proceedings.

In order to guard against dispersal of funds, the landlord obtained an order which froze the woman’s assets up to a value of £100,000. The order also required her to disclose to the landlord’s solicitors the full extent of her assets within England and Wales. Despite a number of warnings, and a subsequent order that increased the value of the assets frozen to £112,000, she persistently failed to comply.

After she was brought before a judge, she confessed to three breaches of the order and apologised. She had failed to disclose her interest in three properties and the income they generated. She had also kept quiet about various bank accounts and had failed to inform the landlord’s solicitors of the sums being spent on her personal living expenses and the source of those funds. She received a nine-month prison sentence for her admitted contempt of court.

In ruling on her challenge to the jail term, the Court of Appeal found that the gravity of her disobedience justified immediate imprisonment and that she deserved little credit for her belated admissions and apology. Her responsibility as sole carer for her 13-year-old son was not a factor that required the sentence to be suspended. The Court, however, acknowledged the additional impact of separating mother from son and reduced the woman’s sentence to six months.