I do not agree that the judgment in Petrodel v Prest is a ‘cheat’s charter’. The judgment, although by a majority, is a refreshing example of the application of the rule of law and the correct statutory interpretation of section 24(1)(a) of MCA 1973. May it long continue.
The court has adequate and clear powers to disregard a corporate or trust structure which is a sham, to lift the corporate veil where there is impropriety and to vary a nuptial settlement. The wrong interpretation of the act does not produce a just or fair result.
The judges and practitioners have for many years twisted the meaning of words in the act and have inserted words that are simply not there. The judges cannot now agree. Therein lies the ‘cheat’s charter’. Only the very wealthy, or the impecunious who are able to act in person, can hope to take advantage of the mass of conflicting judgments and partisan opinions.
In that environment, the bully and the obstinate and the revenge-seeker and the cheat, regardless of gender, prospers.
The prospect of a just outcome, according to law, for the ordinary litigant, is more and more remote. The judgment in Petrodel is at least a step in the right direction.
Philip Elwood, Richmond, Surrey