In Sellers v Podstreshnyy  EWCA Civ 613 the appellant argued that immediate custodial sentences for breaches of freezing orders were too long and should have been suspended. At first instance, Falk J had imposed two concurrent sentences of nine months’ imprisonment and one of six months’ imprisonment on Ms Olga Olita Sellers. An appeal on costs was also brought but dropped after the filing of skeleton arguments.
The court rejected the contention that the sentences should be suspended and allowed the appeal only to reduce the two nine-month sentences to six months each, in light of the effect the contemnor’s imprisonment was having on her 13 year old son. The third six-month sentence was maintained.
In the underlying dispute, the respondent landlord had brought a proprietary claim against Ms Sellers, an estate and letting agent, after discovering that rental monies, which should have been passed over to him, had instead been paid to and spent by Ms Sellers. Sarah obtained two pre-action interim freezing injunctions and various third party disclosure orders ex parte in February 2018. Ms Sellers’ failure to comply with the freezing orders, including by failing to immediately disclosure details of her assets within the jurisdiction, resulted in a committal application in June 2018.
At the committal hearing in February 2019, Sarah persuaded the Falk J that there had been serious and deliberate breaches of the freezing orders and that mitigating factors, including the impact of the appellant’s imprisonment on her son, were not sufficiently strong to depart from the Court of Appeal’s guidance that an immediate custodial sentence was normally required for breaches of freezing orders (see: Podstreshnyy v Pericles Properties Ltd  EWHC 469 (Ch)).