L v L and Hughes Fowler Carruthers: QBD 1 Feb 2007

The parties were engaged in ancillary relief proceedings. The Husband complained that the wife had sought to use unlawfully obtained information, and in these proceedings sought delivery up of the material from the wife and her solicitors. He said that the information was subject to professional legal privilege and was otherwise confidential. They had admitted possession of copies of two hard drives from his computers, but said that the possession was lawful.
Held: The material did include confidential material. The evidence should be preserved, but the wife should not be allowed to take advantage of her position. At trial W might be found to have acted unlawfully under either or both the 1990 Act or the 1998 Act. The material should be held by H’s solicitors until trial. It was not clear that the issues raised here would be dealt with by the Family Division, and transfer was refused. An action could lie against W and against the solicitors as co-tortfeasors. It could not be struck out.
Tugendhat J said: ‘I find it a matter for considerable concern that parties to litigation should conduct searches which lack any of the safeguards built into a search order issued by the court, and all the more so if they do that in circumstances where they could not reasonably expect to obtain any such order from the court . . It is a matter for Parliament and the courts to strike the balance between the public interest in protecting privacy and the public interest in ensuring fair trials and the protection of the rights of spouses, in particular by ensuring that evidence is not destroyed and concealed. But whatever the right balance, it is not in the public interest that the law be flouted . . It is said that this [the Hildebrand procedure] is a concept unknown in the Queens Bench Division. I do not consider the concept is unknown in this Division, even if the name of the case is not cited. As I understand the principle, it is the application to Family Proceedings of the principle referred to above, namely that in civil proceedings it has hitherto generally been considered that admissible evidence must be admitted however it has been obtained and if it has been obtained by reprehensible means, then that should be visited upon the wrongdoer, if at all, in orders for costs, or in some other way.’

Tugendhat J
[2007] EWHC 140 (QB), [2007] 2 FLR 171
Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984, Data Protection Act 1998 35 55, Computer Misuse Act 1990
England and Wales
CitedHildebrand v Hildebrand 1992
The parties in ancillary relief proceedings sought orders for discovery. H had been to the wife’s flat surreptitiously on five occasions, and taken photocopies of so many documents obtained by him in the course of those visits (but returned after . .
CitedNiemietz v Germany ECHR 16-Dec-1992
A lawyer complained that a search of his offices was an interference with his private life.
Held: In construing the term ‘private life’, ‘it would be too restrictive to limit the notion of an ‘inner circle’ in which the individual may live his . .
CitedK v K (Financial Capital Relief; and Management of Difficult Cases) FD 17-May-2005
W applied for full ancillary relief arising upon the breakdown of her marriage. She copied a number of the husband’s documents, rummaged through dustbins and took documents from her husband’s pockets. When she was no longer living in the former . .
CitedA v B FD 31-Jul-2000
Husband and wife pursued ancillary relief applications, but an issue arose as to copyright, and it was transferred to Chancery. W kept a personal diary. H read it after W said she wanted a divorce. He read passages and had extracts photocopied . .
CitedT v T (Interception of Documents) FD 5-Aug-1994
W feared that the H would seek to understate the true extent of his resources to the court and so she engaged in a number of activities, including opening and taking letters addressed to him and breaking into his office, with the intention of . .
CitedHalford v The United Kingdom ECHR 25-Jun-1997
The interception of the telephone calls of an employee in a private exchange was a breach of her right of privacy. She had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The police force’s surveillances of the applicant’s telephone (to obtain information . .
CitedLord Ashburton v Pape CA 1913
Pape’s bankruptcy discharge was opposed by Lord Ashburton. He subpoenaed Brooks, a clerk to Lord Ashburton’s solicitor and obtained privileged letters written by Lord Ashburton to Mr Nocton, which Pape proposed to use. Pape and Brooks had colluded. . .
CitedCalcraft v Guest CA 1898
A trial had taken place in which the principal issue was the upper boundary of the plaintiff’s fishery. On appeal the defendant proposed to rely on new evidence discovered among the papers in another action tried over a hundred years before. The . .
CitedGoddard v Nationwide Building Society CA 1986
A solicitor had acted for both purchaser and lender in a purchase transaction. The purchaser later sought to recover from the defendant for a negligent valuation. The solicitor had however discussed the issue with the plaintiff before the purchase, . .
CitedHughes v Carratu International Plc QBD 19-Jul-2006
The claimant wished to bring an action against the defendant enquiry agent, saying that it had obtained unlawful access to details of his bank accounts, and now sought disclosure of documents. The defendant denied wrongdoing, and said it had . .
CitedLock v Beswick 1989
The court examined the remedies available to an employer who wished to recover confidential and other material allegedly taken by an employee.
Held: Hoffmann J said: ‘Even in cases in which the plaintiff has strong evidence that an employee . .
CitedJones v University of Warwick CA 4-Feb-2003
The claimant appealed a decision to admit in evidence a tape recording, taken by an enquiry agent of the defendant who had entered her house unlawfully.
Held: The situation asked judges to reconcile the irreconcilable. Courts should be . .
CitedThree Rivers District Council and Others v Governor and Company of The Bank of England (No 3) HL 22-Mar-2001
Misfeasance in Public Office – Recklessness
The bank sought to strike out the claim alleging misfeasance in public office in having failed to regulate the failed bank, BCCI.
Held: Misfeasance in public office might occur not only when a company officer acted to injure a party, but also . .

Cited by:
CitedImerman v Tchenguiz and Others QBD 27-Jul-2009
It was said that the defendant had taken private and confidential material from the claimant’s computer. The claimant sought summary judgement for the return of materials and destruction of copies. The defendant denied that summary judgement was . .
CitedWhite v Withers Llp and Dearle CA 27-Oct-2009
The claimant was involved in matrimonial ancillary relief proceedings. His wife was advised by the defendants, her solicitors, to remove his private papers. The claimant now sought permission to appeal against a strike out of his claim against the . .
CitedTchenguiz and Others v Imerman CA 29-Jul-2010
Anticipating a refusal by H to disclose assets in ancillary relief proceedings, W’s brothers wrongfully accessed H’s computers to gather information. The court was asked whether the rule in Hildebrand remained correct. W appealed against an order . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Family, Litigation Practice

Updated: 10 December 2021; Ref: scu.248402