I’ve encountered more than my fair share of tricky litigants in person in recent weeks. A low point was at a difficult FDR when my client’s husband snatched my carefully crafted, handwritten offer and screwed it in to a ball, without giving it so much as a passing glance. Whilst I retained my cool, I couldn’t help but wonder what I had done to deserve this run of disgruntled LiPs.
Seemingly, my LiP woes are pale by comparison to those described in the recent judgment of Mostyn J in Velupillai & Others v Velupillai  EWHC 3095 (Fam) and endured by my colleague, Jennifer Lee, who acted for the wife.
So ‘abysmal’ was the LiP husband in that case that the judgment has given rise to widespread media coverage. Some of you may have already seen reference to the case in our ‘Latest News’ section of the website.
Velupillai would have been a relatively straightforward case had it not been for the conduct of the LiP husband. Instead, there was a 4 day hearing in the High Court. Proceedings had begun in 2012 and more than thirty hearings had followed, including four appeals by the husband. He had threatened to kill and also assaulted the wife and her counsel. He had been removed from the courtroom by security staff and had repeatedly acted in an unpleasant and menacing way. During the proceedings he entered into various transactions in an attempt to thwart the wife’s claims.
Prior to the 4 day hearing the husband claimed to have a fatal illness and sought an indefinite adjournment. He was unsuccessful due to the inadequacy of the medical evidence provided. Instead of attending the hearing, he bombarded the court with offensive and threatening emails. So threatening were the messages that Mostyn J directed that they be referred to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in case criminal offences had been committed. One of the most shocking is included in Mostyn J’s judgment as follows:
“THIS IS MIS-CARRIAGE OF JUSTIC MOSTYN – I WANT THE F***ING UPDATE ON WHAT IS HAPPENING YOU F***ING TALIKUING MY HARTD EARNED MONEY MOSTYN WHO THE HELL ARE YOU MAKING DECISION ON MY MONEY. HAVE YOU EARNED THIS F***ING MONEY. YOU ALL MUST BE EXECUTED IN A GAS CHAMBER. I WANT THE F***ING RESPONSE NOW”.
The court heard the evidence of the wife and concluded that the husband’s conduct was such that an inference could be drawn that he had at least £500,000 of undisclosed assets.
The legally aided wife sought and obtained a costs order equal to the entirety of her costs, pursuant to FPR 28.3(6) and (7). These costs were to be charged against a flat in Feltham which Mostyn J had already determined was beneficially owned by the husband.
Perhaps most interestingly, Mostyn J waived the husband’s right to anonymity as it was in the public interest for his behaviour to be exposed. The public should know of the problems faced by the courts from unrepresented and malevolent LiPs who try to run roughshod through the legal process.
Perhaps I won’t be so quick to grumble about some of the LiPs that I encounter in future. Screwing up my without prejudice proposal is a relatively minor indiscretion, after all.