Imerman v Tchenguiz and Others

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
JudgeSir David Keene
Judgment Date29 July 2010
Neutral Citation[2010] EWCA Civ 126,[2010] EWCA Civ 908
Docket NumberCase No: A2/2009/2133

[2010] EWCA Civ 126




(Mr Justice Eady)

Before: Sir David Keene

Case No: A2/2009/2133


Mr S Nathan QC (instructed by Zaiwalla & Co) appeared on behalf of the Claimant.

The Defendant did not appear and was not represented

Sir David Keene

Sir David Keene:


This is a renewed application for permission to appeal from a judgment of Eady J on 27 July 2009 and the order following therefrom, permission having been refused on the papers by Sir Richard Buxton on 11 November last year.


By his order, Eady J gave summary judgment for the claimant, Mr Imerman, restraining the five defendants from disclosing to any party—including Mr Imerman's wife, Elizabeth Tchenguiz (“ET”)—various documents and information, described as “the confidential information”, and ordering the delivery up to the claimant of any documents or electrically stored devices containing any part of the confidential information and also any notes etc based thereon. The defendant now seeks permission to appeal.


These restraint proceedings in the Queen's Bench Division need to be seen in the context of ongoing divorce proceedings in the Family Division between the claimant and ET, who is the sister of the first and second defendants. They and the claimant shared certain business interests, office space and computer facilities, but in early 2009 the first defendant accessed information held on the computer system by the claimant. It seems tolerably clear that the first defendant was looking for information about the claimant's financial position and the whereabouts of his money so as to assist his sister, ET, in her divorce proceedings. Although the claim alleged various statutory offences by one or other of the defendants, Eady J expressly did not rule on those. He based his grant of an injunction on “the nature of the information obtained and its source”. He did not find any unlawful conduct by any of the defendants (see paragraph 67 of his judgment). It seems therefore that he based his decision on the other claimed causes of action—that is to say, breach of confidence and breach of the claimant's right to privacy, largely in reliance on Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.


The defendants raised a public interest defence to this under Article 8(2), with the first defendant arguing that there was evidence that the claimant would seek to hide his assets from his wife. Such arguments were given a degree of recognition in the case of L v L [2007] EWHC 140 if the documents or information in question were relevant to establishing the truth. Eady J acknowledged the force of such arguments at paragraph 22 of his judgment in the present case. But he rejected it really, so far as I can see, for two reasons: first, because of the scale of the material involved, which he described as “vast”; and, secondly and probably more significantly, because the wife's solicitors already had seven lever arched files of material about the husband's financial position—material which derived from the same accessing of the husband's computer as we are now concerned with. Thus, said Eady J, the wife's Article 6 right to a fair trial in the Family Division would not be compromised by the grant of an injunction. The judge had been told by the claimant's counsel that the Family Division judge would have material in the seven level arched files available to him or her, and that the claimant was content that he or she should decide what use to make of them (see paragraphs 29 and 66 of his judgment).


In fact, in December 2009 in the Family Division, Moylan J had to deal with applications by the husband that the seven files should be returned to him and that his wife should in fact be restrained from using the material. In a lengthy and careful judgment dated 11 December 2009—that is to say, after both Eady J's decision in this case and Sir Richard Buxton's refusal of permission to appeal—Moylan J acknowledged that the husband's Article 8 right to privacy was engaged, but he went on to rule that that was outweighed by the need to see that justice was done, however the information had been obtained, and he refused to prevent ET, the wife, from using it in the course of the divorce proceedings. In so doing, he was relying on a number of authorities which appear to allow a spouse to “borrow” documents belonging to the other party for copying purposes and then return them (with electronic data there is less necessity of course to return) (see Imerman v Imerman [2009] EWHC 3486 Family).


This seems to me in itself to give rise to a certain degree of tension, which was recognised by Wilson LJ in another recent decision: this time of this court in the case of White v Withers [2009] EWCA Civ 1122 dated 27 October 2009. At paragraph 84 thereof Wilson LJ said this:

“I would be profoundly opposed to a co-existence of the admissibility in the family courts of documents secretly obtained with, nevertheless, a tortious liability on the part of those who had obtained them or who shared responsibility for their having been obtained. Such a co-existence would compromise the ability of family practitioners to advise that action on the part of their clients in accordance with the Hildebrand “rules” was permissible and would thus in my view disable the family courts from discharging their statutory duty in certain cases.”


It appears to me that there is a need for the courts to clarify the current situation. This is a fast-moving and developing area of the law which has changed even since Eady J's decision. As things stand, it would seem that relevant material in divorce proceedings, even if irregularly obtained and prima facie in breach of a person's right to privacy, may often be admitted in evidence, once in the possession of the other party to the divorce proceedings; but on Eady J's reasoning such material cannot be supplied to that party by the person who has obtained it; in the present case, her brother.


This is a tension which, in my judgment, needs to be resolved. It is appropriate that the full Court of Appeal should examine the problem. Of course, a crucial factor may often be the relevance of the material in question. Eady J was of the view that the wife here had sufficient material in the seven files. The problem, at least arguably, with that approach is that this was a case dealt with by way of summary judgment. As I am informed, the judge did not carry out any analysis, which showed that the seven files possessed by the wife's solicitors contained material so relevant and so important that the remaining material to which these proceedings related could be seen as not being relevant or important. Indeed, the significance of this remaining material to the divorce proceedings was something which might well be thought to require a trial rather than summary judgment.


In those circumstances, I take the view that it is properly arguable that the balancing exercise required by Article 8(2), where there is a conflict between the right to privacy on the one hand and another person's rights, such as those under Article 6, to a fair trial in divorce proceedings, necessitated a trial to be conducted.


For these reasons, I propose to grant permission to appeal. There are other subsidiary matters raised in the grounds of appeal. I do not propose to shut those out, but they seem to me to be of lesser significance, especially if the first defendant were to win on his main arguments.


There clearly ought to be a judge with family experience in the constitution to hear this appeal. There is already a hearing pending in respect of a proposed appeal from Moylan J's decision, to which I referred earlier: Imerman v Imerman. I believe that the appeal proceedings have the reference number [2010] EWCA Civ 0139. It would make good sense, in my view, for these issues to be dealt with together; therefore I shall direct that they be heard together. The other proceedings on the proposed appeal from Moylan J, as I understand it, are going to be dealt with by three lord justices, one with family law experience. That would be appropriate for this case as well.


So far as time is concerned, that other matter has a one day time estimate. Clearly that is not going to be enough, I would have thought, if this particular matter were to be joined to it. Two to three days, and perhaps counsel engaged in both sets of proceedings would keep in touch with the list office and let the office know if at any point it seems that that particular bracket is either inadequate or excessive.

Order: Application granted

[2010] EWCA Civ 908

[2009] EWHC 2024 (QB)

[2009] EWHC 3486 (Fam)

[2009] EWHC 64 (Fam)



Mr Justice Eady

Mr Justice Moylan

Before: Master of The Rolls

Lord Justice Moses and

Lord Justice Munby

Case No: A2/2009/2133

B4/2010/0139 & 0140

1. Robert Tchenguiz
2. Vincent Tchenguiz
3. Tim Mcclean
4. Nouri Obayda
5. Sarosh Zaiwalla
Vivian Imerman
Vivian Saul Imerman
Elizabeth Tchenguiz Imerman

Desmond Browne QC, Stephen Nathan QC and David Hirst (instructed by Zaiwalla & Co) for the Appellant

Antony White QC and Lorna Skinner (instructed by Berwin Leighton Paisner) for the Respondents

Charles Howard QC, Antony White QC and Lorna Skinner ( instructed by Hughes Fowler Carruthers) for the Appellant

James Turner QC and David Sherborne ( instructed by Withers LLP) for the Res...

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92 cases
  • H. v H
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 23 January 2015
    ...drew the attention of the court to the judgment of the Court of Appeal in the jurisdiction of England and Wales in Imerman v. Imerman [2010] EWCA Civ. 908, in which the judgment of the Master of the Rolls (as he then was) held that the hitherto operational Hildebrand rules were never good l......
  • Amit Matalia v Warwickshire County Council
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    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 13 July 2017
    ...and formed part of the equitable right to protect confidential information, as it still does. Giving the judgment of the court in Imerman v Tchenguiz [2010] EWCA Civ 908; [2011] Fam 116, Lord Neuberger MR said at [67]: "However, given that the domestic law on confidentiality had alrea......
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    • High Court (Malaysia)
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6 firm's commentaries
  • High Court Rules That Public Interest Defence Is, In Principle, Available In Both Breach Of Confidence And Misuse Of Private Information Claims
    • United Kingdom
    • Mondaq UK
    • 14 June 2021
    ...point was that the same facts being proved will potentially serve as a defence in both kinds of claim. As stated in Imerman v Tchenguiz [2011 Fam 116, "the law should be developed and applied consistently and coherently in both privacy and 'old fashioned confidence' HHJ Matthews also r......
  • Imerman - A Cheat's Charter?
    • United Kingdom
    • Mondaq United Kingdom
    • 8 March 2011
    ...July 2010, the Court of Appeal gave it's decision in the conjoined appeals of Tchenguiz v Imerman; Imerman v Imerman [2010] EWCA Civ 908 which removed the right of one spouse to rely on the other spouse's confidential material in the context of divorce proceedings and in so doing, radically......
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    • United Kingdom
    • Mondaq United Kingdom
    • 8 April 2011
    ...Court of Appeal decision in July in the case of Imerman (Tchenguiz v Imerman, Imerman v Imerman [2010] EWCA Civ 908) has been described as a 'cheat's charter'. In that case, Mrs Imerman's brothers had downloaded hundreds of thousands of documents from Mr Imerman's computer which they then h......
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    • United Kingdom
    • Mondaq United Kingdom
    • 8 December 2010
    ...Court of Appeal decision in July in the case of Imerman (Tchenguiz v Imerman, Imerman v Imerman [2010] EWCA Civ 908) has been described as a 'cheat's charter'. In that case, Mrs Imerman's brothers had downloaded hundreds of thousands of documents from Mr Imerman's computer which they then h......
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2 books & journal articles
  • The Duty of Confidence Revisited: The protection of confidential information
    • Australia
    • University of Western Australia Law Review Nbr. 39-2, September 2015
    • 1 September 2015
    ...before a duty of confidence arises, if bona fide and without notice, is relevant to the exercise 45Coco v Newnham (1990) 97 ALR 419. 46[2010] 2 FLR 814 cf T Aplin et al, above n 5, [15.21]-[15.22]. 47See, eg, Fractionated Cane Technology Ltd v Ruiz-Avila (1988) 2 Qd R 610; Carflow Products ......
  • Libel: Its Purpose and Reform
    • United Kingdom
    • The Modern Law Review Nbr. 74-6, November 2011
    • 1 November 2011
    ...1971). cf WainwrightvHome Office [2003] UKHL 53 (no general tort of invasion of privacy in English law),but see nowImerman vTchenguiz [2010] EWCA Civ 908 (no necessity for misuse of private information beforea claim for breach of confidentiality could succeed).117 For a lucid account of the i......

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