The High Court has ruled that a wife had not been entitled to access her husband’s private information during divorce proceedings. In giving the ruling, the judge warned couples not to resort to unlawful practices to gain an unfair advantage.
The issue arose after the husband suspected that the wife had accessed and misused his private information.
He applied for an interim injunction preventing her from disclosing any information she had obtained, requiring her to deliver up copies of documents she had and to produce a witness statement setting out what information she had obtained and how.
The hearing of the application was resolved by the wife giving undertakings that she would not delete, disclose or publish any of the information she had obtained, she would provide a statement as to what she had, and she would not dispose of any electronic devices.
At a second hearing, the wife produced a witness statement as required, including information as to how and what she had obtained and anyone to whom she had shown it.
The husband submitted that he should be awarded costs for making his application for an injunction. The wife argued that costs should be reserved to the family proceedings, which would take place later.
She conceded that there had been unlawful access to the husband’s private information but argued that it was understandable in the context of a marriage breakdown and that her culpability was at the lower end of the spectrum.
The court ruled in favour of the husband. It said that costs would normally be reserved until the main matters were decided at the final hearing, but the court’s hands were not tied.
In this case, the court did not accept the wife’s submission that the matter should be left until the full hearing. Where one of the parties in divorce proceedings, in this case the husband, believed that his private information had been accessed, he was entitled to urgently seek the court’s help.
Unlawful practice between spouses was no longer tolerated. The husband’s application for the costs of the application was justified and should be granted.
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Divorcing wife ‘wrong to access husband’s private information’
SANTI v SANTI (2021)
QBD (Nicklin J) 03/02/2021