The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal against the removal of a so-called Angel Bell exception to a post-judgment freezing order, with the effect that the defendant was prevented from continuing to make payments in the ordinary course of business: Michael Wilson & “Partners” Ltd v John Forster Emmott  EWCA Civ 219.
Whilst the court was mindful of the fact that the grant of a freezing injunction is a discretionary decision reached on a fact-specific basis, with which higher courts will be slow to interfere, it nevertheless sought to provide some clear guidance in its judgment.
First, the court held that there is no “presumption” that an Angel Bell exception should be excluded from a post-judgment freezing order, but noted that its inclusion “will sometimes and perhaps usually be inappropriate”.
Second, the court found that the existence of an unsatisfied judgment debt “does make a difference” when considering the ambit of a freezing order. In short, it will be easier to justify the exclusion of a business expenditure exception when a party has refused to honour a judgment. The public policy in favour of ensuring that judgments are respected means that, where (as in this particular case) a party has persistently failed to pay what is due, a strict approach to exceptions is appropriate.
Kevin Kilgour, a senior associate in our disputes team, considers the decision further below.