Skone v Skone and Another: HL 1971

The husband appealed, seeking a new trial of a divorce petition following the discovery of fresh evidence consisting of a bundle of love letters from the co-respondent to the wife clearly showing that, contrary to his sworn evidence, he had committed adultery with her.
Held: The House admitted the fresh evidence. Where a strong prima facie case of wilful deception is disclosed, a new trial will be ordered.
Lord Denning said: ‘It is very rare that an application is made for a new trial on the ground that a witness has told a lie. The principles to be applied are the same as those when fresh evidence is sought to be introduced. In order to justify the reception of fresh evidence for a new trial, three conditions must be fulfilled: first it must be shown that the evidence could not have been obtained with reasonable diligence for use at the trial: second, the evidence must be such that, if given, it would probably have an important influence on the result of the case, although it need not be decisive; third, the evidence must be such as is presumably to be believed, or in other words it must be apparently credible, although it need not be incontrovertible.’
Lord Hodson said: ‘Assuming, as I think your Lordships must for the purposes of this application, that the letters sought to be tendered as evidence are genuine, the basis of the judge’s finding of fact at the trial has been falsified to such an extent that to leave matters as they are would, in my opinion, be unjust . . A strong prima facie case of wilful deception of the court is disclosed.’ and ‘The situation of the wife is or was, however, at the material times a peculiar one in that she was in the opposite camp in the sense that she was anxious not to do anything without the approval of the co-respondent, feeling that her interests were bound up with his. The petitioner was advised by counsel, as I have said, and I find it impossible to hold that in these circumstances it is right to hold that the petitioner failed to exercise due diligence in this matter.’


Lord Denning, Lord Hodson


[1971] 1 WLR 812, [1971] 2 All ER 582


England and Wales


ApprovedLadd v Marshall CA 29-Nov-1954
Conditions for new evidence on appeal
At the trial, the wife of the appellant’s opponent said she had forgotten certain events. After the trial she began divorce proceedings, and informed the appellant that she now remembered. He sought either to appeal admitting fresh evidence, or for . .

Cited by:

CitedOwens v Noble CA 10-Mar-2010
The respondent had been awarded substantial damages after an accident for which the appellant was responsible. The appellant now said that the claimant had exaggerated his injuries and misled the judge. The defendant argued that the correct approach . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Litigation Practice

Updated: 19 November 2022; Ref: scu.414951