The bankrupt’s trustee applied for a possession order of his home. The bankrupt unsuccessfully appealed his bankruptcy, the order in litigation that had led to his bankruptcy and the possession order, but he refused throughout to give up possession and applied for a committal order. The court found the bankrupt in contempt of court for failing to give possession and sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment.
The Court of Appeal upheld the judge’s order. The bankrupt’s actions had been wilful, deliberate and maintained on the basis that he did not accept that the bankruptcy order or the possession order were properly made against him, or that he had to comply with them. It was a plain case of contempt. Neither the immediate custodial sanction, nor the length of the sentence was manifestly excessive.
Although applications for committal are relatively rare, when faced with a vexatious litigant, or a debtor’s persistent and wilful default, it should at least be considered. The court can, and clearly does, make such orders in appropriate cases.
Trustee in Bankruptcy of R Canty v Canty