Disclosure of documents - Third party
Revenue and Customs Commissioners v Charman and another: Family Division (Mr Justice Coleridge): 29 May 2012
The first respondent (the husband) was the former spouse of the second respondent (the wife). In 2006, the court heard an application for ancillary relief by the wife. One of the issues which impacted upon the determination of the wife's claim was the extent of the husband's potential tax liabilities. Accordingly, there was considerable evidence given in respect of the husband's tax affairs during the hearing.
The applicant Revenue and Customs Commissioners (the Revenue) subsequently issued assessments for approximately £11.5m of unpaid tax for the years 2001-2008. The husband appealed the assessments. For the purposes of the tax appeal, the Revenue sought to have sight of and to be able to use transcripts of the divorce/financial proceedings and other documents which had been filed or brought into being for the purposes of the application and hearing. The husband refused to produce the requested information. The Revenue applied for an order for the release and/or production of the documents.
It contended that it was always in the public interest for the right amount of tax to be paid by taxpayers and that the documents were directly relevant to the matters in issue before the tribunal. The application would be dismissed.
As a general rule documents and other evidence produced in ancillary relief proceedings (now financial remedy proceedings) were not disclosable to third parties outside the proceedings save that exceptionally and rarely and for very good reason they could be disclosed with the leave of the court. The fact that evidence might be relevant or useful was not by itself a good enough reason to undermine that rule (see  of the judgment).
Having considered and balanced the competing public interests, there was nothing rare and exceptional about the instant case which took it outside the general rule. The husband was entitled to say that he had complied fully with the rules of disclosure and the confidentiality/privilege attached to the documents and other evidence produced thereby should not be breached. The Revenue had advanced no discernible compelling reason why the general rule should be relaxed in the instant case (see  of the judgment). S v S (disclosure to revenue)  3 FCR 1 considered; Clibbery v Allan  1 All ER 865 considered.
Akash Nawbatt (instructed by the Revenue and Customs Commissioners) for the Revenue; Stewart Leech QC and Barrie Akin (instructed by Withers LLP) for the husband; The wife did not appear and was not represented.