St John’s Buildings Sally Harrison QC and Samantha Hillas ‘Northern Powerhouse’ continue to lead the field in groundbreaking financial remedy appeal decisions

October 14, 2016

The Court of Appeal has today handed down the long-awaited decision in the high profile case of Roocroft v Ball.  The leading judgment of King LJ resolves more than two years’ of litigation relating to the powers of the court when faced with the highly unusual circumstances of a civil partner posthumously alleging material non-disclosure following the death of the respondent.

Helen Roocroft and Carol Ainscow’s civil partnership came to an end in 2010. Despite Miss Ainscow appearing in The Times ‘Rich List’ in 2009, it was asserted on her behalf during the parties’ 2010 financial proceedings that Miss Ainscow’s wealth had taken a tumble following the global recession and only a fraction of her wealth remained to share with Miss Roocroft at the end of their 19 year relationship and civil partnership.

Earlier decisions of the court had left Miss Roocroft without funds to fight the case and in 2010 she accepted a settlement of her claims which provided her with a small capital sum. After Miss Ainscow’s death in 2013, Miss Roocroft alleged that Miss Ainscow’s estate was worth more than the assets which had been disclosed to the court in 2010. As a result, Miss Roocroft applied to the court to set aside the order and to seek greater financial provision from Miss Ainscow’s estate. However, Miss Ainscow’s estate applied to strike out Miss Roocroft’s case. Their application was successful and His Honour Judge Barnett struck out Miss Roocroft’s set aside application on the basis Miss Roocroft had entered into the deal with her eyes open.

Sally Harrison QC and Samantha Hillas, instructed by Ros Bever of Irwin Mitchell successfully took Miss Roocroft’s case to the Court of Appeal arguing that, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Wyatt v Vince, the Court had no jurisdiction to summarily dismiss the case without further investigation and, in doing so, had failed to follow the principles to be adopted in cases where material non-disclosure was alleged as set out by the Supreme Court in the 2015 decisions of Sharland v Sharland and Gohil v Gohil.

Sally and Sam’s knowledge of this difficult and controversial area of law following their representation of Mrs Gohil before the Supreme Court enabled them to argue successfully before the Court of Appeal that the decision of His Honour Judge Barnett was wrong.  The Court of Appeal have allowed the appeal and restored the proceedings to the Family Division for determination of the set aside application.

A copy of the formal judgment is available here.

Richard Todd QC led Charles Eastwood of these Chambers on behalf of Miss Ainscow’s estate.