Skone v Skone

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
JudgeLord Hodson,Viscount Dilhorne,Lord Wilberforce,Lord Diplock,Lord Cross of Chelsea
Judgment Date12 May 1971
Judgment citation (vLex)[1971] UKHL J0512-1
Date12 May 1971
CourtHouse of Lords

[1971] UKHL J0512-1

House of Lords

Lord Hodson

Viscount Dilhorne

Lord Wilberforce

Lord Diplock

Lord Cross

Skone (A.P.)
Skone and Another

Upon Report from the Appellate Committee, to whom was referred the Cause Skone (A.P.) against Skone and another, that the Committee had heard Counsel for the Appellant on Monday the 5th day of April last, upon the Petition and Appeal of Michael Charles Ivor Skone (Assisted Person), of 96 New Road, Great Wakering, in the County of Essex, praying, That the matter of the Order set forth in the Schedule thereto, namely, an Order of Her Majesty's Court of Appeal of the 29th of May 1970, might be reviewed before Her Majesty the Queen, in Her Court of Parliament, and that the said Order might be reversed, varied or altered, and that the Petitioner might have the relief prayed for in the Appeal, or such other relief in the premises as to Her Majesty the Queen, in Her Court of Parliament, might seem meet; the Respondents Trixie Jacqueline Skone and John Edwin Smith, not having lodged a Case in answer to the said Appeal though ordered so to do; and due Consideration being had this day of what was offered for the said Appellant:

It is Ordered and Adjudged, by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in the Court of Parliament of Her Majesty the Queen assembled. That the said Order of Her Majesty's Court of Appeal, of the 29th day of May 1970, complained of in the said Appeal, be, and the same is hereby Discharged: And it is further Ordered, That the Judgment of the Honourable Mr. Justice Dunn of the 19th day of November 1969 be, and the same is hereby Remitted back to the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court of Justice with a Direction that a new Trial be had: And it is further Ordered, That the Costs incurred by the Appellant in respect of the said Appeal in this House, and also the Costs incurred by the Appellant in the Court of Appeal, do abide the result of the new Trial: And it is further Ordered, That the Costs incurred by the Appellant in respect of the said Appeal to this House be taxed in accordance with the provisions of the Third Schedule to the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949 as amended by the Legal Aid Act 1960.

Lord Hodson

My Lords,


On 25th April, 1968, the Appellant presented a petition for divorce against his wife on the ground of her adultery with a man named John Edward Smith.


The allegations extended over a period from December, 1967, to April 25th, 1968, and included a specific allegation of adultery in the co-respondent Smith's motor car on 11th February, 1968. The wife originally entered an appearance stating her intention to defend the case but filed no answer and took no part in the proceedings leading up to and including the trial. That trial took place before Dunn J. who dismissed the petition after a two-day hearing on 19th November, 1969. The Petitioner gave evidence of his wife's association with the co-respondent and he and an enquiry agent gave evidence that on the night of 11th February they saw the wife and co-respondent behaving in a manner consistent with that of persons having sexual intercourse together.


The wife was also proved to have made admissions of adultery with the co-respondent to the enquiry agent. However, she refused to give him a written statement without consulting the co-respondent. She also made damaging admissions concerning her relationship with other men not only to her husband but also to other persons including a Mrs. Moir. These admissions, whether they purported to refer to the co-respondent or not, were made in his presence and are not evidence against him. The wife's attitude was that she did not want to upset the co-respondent by making a statement without his approval and that she was not sure what her future relations with the co-respondent were going to be.


The co-respondent gave evidence not only denying adultery but also contending that so far from giving the wife any encouragement he did exactly the opposite by repelling her advances and eventually calling her a very common girl and a very foolish one.


The learned judge decided the case by rejecting any inference of adultery to be drawn from what was seen in the motor car on the 11th February, 1968. He accepted the evidence of the co-respondent and this is the essential part of his judgment. Having dealt with the probabilities and the background of the case he used these words:

"Apart from that I accept the evidence of Mr. Smith. I thought that Mr. Smith was an impressive witness, he gave his evidence extremely well, I thought his demeanour was very good, he answered the questions absolutely straight and was not in the least evasive, and I accept his account of the events of that night. That is not to say that Mr. Skone and Mr. Roffey," (the enquiry agent) "in my judgment, intended to mislead the Court I am sure they thought they had seen what they said they had seen, and any exaggeration in their evidence or any desire to draw inferences which in my judgment, having heard the whole of the evidence, were not justified, was due to over enthusiasm rather than a desire to mislead."


In view of his conclusion on this evidence it is not surprising that the learned judge refused to pronounce a decree in reliance upon an admission by the wife of adultery with a man not known. He referred in particular to the unreliability of a confession made by a woman of the wife's character as revealed to him in evidence and of her evident desire for a divorce. In the result the petition was dismissed and the Petitioner was ordered to pay £50 towards the costs of the co-respondent, both parties being legally aided.


On 24th November, 1969, that is to say within a few days of the hearing, the wife produced to the Petitioner's solicitors a bundle of letters purporting to have been written to her by the co-respondent. These letters were subsequently exhibited to an affidavit sworn by the partner in the Petitioner's solicitors' firm who had the conduct of this case. Your Lordships have seen copies of these letters. If they are written in the hand of the co-respondent during the material period and sent by him to the wife they clearly show that his evidence at the trial was false. His relationship with the wife, far from being a cold and distant one, as he maintained, is shown by the letters to have been warm and intimate. The letters are love letters and contain statements of fact...

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    ...or to discovery of documents in suits which charged adultery. 11 This is borne out by the recent decision of the House of Lords in Skone v. Skone (1971) 1 W.L.R. 812. A husband petitioned for divorce on the ground of his wife's adultery. He failed, but afterwards found a bundle of love lett......
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1 books & journal articles
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    • DSC Publications Online Sasegbon's Laws of Nigeria. Volume 10. Part II Preliminary sections
    • 30 June 2016
    ...Simon Okoyomon v. The State (1973) 1 S.C. 21…………..........................................................….893 Skone v. Skone (1971) 1 W.L.R. 812; (1971) 2 All E.R. 582….................................………..1081, 972 Slee Transport Ltd. v. Oladipo (1973) E.C.F.R. Vol. 3 (Pt. 2) 1176………..........

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