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Property – systematic and continuing breaches of property orders warrant imprisonment for three years 10 months

In Campbell & Louis (Sentencing) [2021] FCWA 64 (15 April 2021) Moncrieff J considered the sentence of a de facto husband who had contravened injunctions on 14 occasions.

The court said (from [16]):

“The respondent’s regard for the orders … has been limited only to his attempts at obfuscation by the use of descriptors for transactions that … suggested that his actions were not undertaken in disobedience of the orders. (…)

[18] He has utilised for his own benefit funds from the superannuation fund. He has utilised for his own benefit … the property of his mother … in breach of an injunction … (…)

[20] He has utilised his undoubted skill as an accountant and auditor … with a seemingly complete disregard for the impact [of] his actions…

[21] He has shown no remorse and seeks to excuse his conduct…

[22] … [T]he charges individually are not of significance but they form part of a collective pattern of behaviour, the focus of which can only have been to remove from the asset pool property…”

The court concluded (from [54]):

“These are serious prolonged and sustained breaches of orders … Whilst I agree that imprisonment should be viewed as a last resort, I hold the view that it is the only appropriate penalty in the circumstances…

[55] … I am satisfied that an immediate custodial sentence should be imposed…

[56] In other words a total served term of imprisonment of three years and 10 months…

[57] … [T]he key to an early release rests in the hands of the respondent who may apply to be released upon the purging of his contempt and upon demonstrating that he has complied with all previous orders … requiring the production of accounts or information… Further, that he disclose the location of funds withdrawn … or account for their expenditure…”

The court also ordered costs fixed at $62,707.

Craig Nicol and Keleigh Robinson are co-editors of The Family Law Book. Both are Accredited Specialists in family law (Queensland and Victoria, respectively). The Family Law Book is a one-volume loose-leaf and online family law service (thefamilylawbook.com.au).

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