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Courts bar dodgy documents from divorce cases

Hildebrand rules hustled out

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People involved in divorce wrangles will no longer be able to use dodgily-obtained documents to prove their spouse is hiding money, following a landmark Court of Appeal ruling.

Previously courts would consider information obtained by the poorer party about the other's finances, even if it was secretly copied from a confidential source.

Millionaire businessman Vivian Imerman however successfully argued that documents taken from his computer by his estranged wife's brothers could not be used in divorce proceedings. The brothers, Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz, had shared a Mayfair office with Imerman.

"I regret that this matter had to be put before the courts," the BBC reports Imerman said.

"It has been a waste of everybody's time and money, but I was determined that my private papers could not be stolen and the perpetrators get away with it without retribution."

The judge, Lord Neuberger, ruled that the previous convention that secretly obtained documents were admissable - known as the Hildebrand rules - was unlawful.

"Nothing in the so-called Hildebrand rules can be relied upon in justification of, or as providing a defence to, conduct which would otherwise be criminal or actionable," Neuberger said.

Lawyers said the judgment could revolutionise divorce proceedings. It is also likely to hit the private investigations business. ®

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