A family court judge has dismissed 28 divorce petitions from the same company after a finding that particulars of behaviour were ‘absolutely identical’ to each other.
Mr Justice Moor declined to refer those responsible to the Director of Public Prosecutions but warned he would have ‘no hesitation’ in doing so if there was any repeat.
He also insisted that the judgment should be placed on the BAILII website to ensure that nobody else decides to do exactly the same as happened in this case.
The 28 petitions were listed in open court after they were all referred by Deputy District Judge McHardy, the judge in day-to-day charge of the divorce unit at Bury St. Edmunds.
Moor J said it was ‘quite impossible’ for each of the 28 respondents to have behaved in exactly the same way, but their particulars of behaviour were described identically over some 145 words in each petition. As a result, he concluded that the petitions were ‘improper’.
All 28 petitions were drafted by and filed by a company referred to as iDivorces, an unregulated provider added as an interested party. Its director, named as Mr Eastham, accepted that the company used standard wording on each petition and sent it to each client asking them if there was anything in there that was wrong.
The judge said it was ‘tolerably clear’ that none of the petitioners made any amendment and he made clear this was not the correct way to proceed.
Moor J added: ‘It follows that I have no alternative but to dismiss all 28 of these divorce petitions. The petitioners will simply have to start again. I hope it will be possible for them to proceed relatively quickly.’
He had considered a reference to the DPP on the basis this was potentially a crime of perverting the course of justice. It was noted that Eastham apologised in court, said it was a misunderstanding and confirmed this will never happen again.
The judge concluded there would be insufficient public benefit in referring these cases as it would be disproportionate to do so.
According to Companies House, Matthew James Eastham was a director of Truro company iDivorces Ltd but resigned in March 2017. There is a company trading as iDivorces based in Truro which is owned by Action Credit Management Ltd. Companies House lists the nature of its business as ‘distilling, rectifying and blending of spirits’ and ‘retail sale in non-specialised stores’. This company has just one director, listed as Wesley Michael Goryl.