Irwin Mitchell wins Supreme Court battle in landmark test case over court room dishonesty

Two Irwin Mitchell clients duped into accepting “unfair” divorce settlements have won their Supreme Court battles in what will become a landmark ruling on dishonesty in court proceedings in the UK.

The unanimous ruling handed down on Wednesday (14 October) found the husbands of Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil misled them over their wealth.

The seven justices also set aside the previous divorce settlements on the basis the men were “dishonest” and “deliberately misled” their ex-wives and the courts in the original hearings.

Irwin Mitchell partner Ros Bever, based in Manchester, led for the claimants, instructing 1 Hare Court’s Martin Pointer QC and 29 Bedford Row’s Peter Mitchell for Sharland. Bever instructed St John’s Buildings’ Sally Harrison QC and Samatha Hillas for Gohil.

Duncan Lewis Solicitors represented Bhadresh Gohil, instructing 1 King’s Bench Walk Chambers James Turner QC.

Charles Sharland was represented by JMW Solicitors, instructing 29 Bedford Row’s Nicholas Francis QC and Nicholas Allen.

The judgment will have far-reaching implications for future court decisions when the issue of a defendant’s honesty is called into question.

It also raises the prospect of hundreds more challenges over divorce settlements.

Bever said: “[Gohil and Sharland] brought their cases not just for themselves but as a matter of principle and justice. Dishonesty in any legal proceedings should not be tolerated; the family court should not be an exception.”

He added: “Both husbands denied their dishonesty and his behind highly technical arguments to avoid the consequences. In both cases, the Supreme Court has seen through those arguments to expose the true picture.”

Sharland had accepted more than £10m in cash and properties in a 50/50 split of assets with her ex-husband. It later emerged his business was valued at around £656m prior to a stock market flotation.

Commenting on the decision, Penningtons Manches family law heavyweight James Stewarts said: ”Non-disclosure can be a huge issue in divorce cases which is not just confined to the super wealthy and those who are less well off.  This judgment underlines that non-disclosure and dishonesty will not be tolerated.

”This is a truly remarkable judgment which is likely to have huge ramifications which stretch far wider than the impact on the two ex-wives involved in this case.  There is no doubt that this judgment will help to preserve London’s strong reputation as the divorce capital of the world for its even-handedness for both parties. The principle that ‘fraud unravels all’ is clearly reinforced.”

The legal lineup

For the claimant, Alison Sharland

1 Hare Court’s Martin Pointer QC and 29 Bedford Row’s Peter Mitchell, instructed by Irwin Mitchell partner Ros Bever.

For the defendant, Charles Sharland

29 Bedford Row’s Nicholas Francis QC and Nicholas Allen, instructed by JMW Solicitors.

For the claimant, Varsha Gohil

St John’s Buildings’ Sally Harrison QC and Samatha Hillas, instructed by Irwin Mitchell partner Ros Bever.

For the defendant, Bhadresh Gohil

1 King’s Bench Walk Chambers’ James Turner QC, instructed by Duncan Lewis Solicitors.