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Prest: a very English solution

In Prest v Petrodel the Supreme Court kept company law principles intact and used property and trust law to reach a fair conclusion - but not all agree with Lord Sumption. Hazel Wright takes a closer look at the decision, while our commentators share their own take on the longer-term implications of the decision (see box below)

14 June 2013

"Courts exercising family jurisdiction do not occupy a desert island in which general legal concepts are suspended or mean something different", Lord Sumption said delivering the lead judgment in Prest v Petrodel [2013] UKSC 34 last week (see Supreme Court upholds wife's appeal in Prest v Petrodel).

How then do judges get to grips with non-disclosing parties, who hold assets in companies which they control but which are separate entities? The Supreme Court found a credible way, by changing the emphasis of the earlier decisions and looking again at evidence. ?The intangible nature of some of the alleged facts led to inferences, which led to the use of trust law.

Michael Prest is the sole controller of seven companies in Petrodel, an offshore group whose assets included the family home and five other properties all in London. Throughout the High Court hearing he was evasive ...

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