Yeats v Yeats (6 MAY 2008)

In this matter, Greg Walsh acted for the applicant, Ms Yeats, the wife of Mr Yeats, who was in receipt of a benefit from the Department of Social Security.

The wife was removed from the Wiley Park Hotel, which she had managed for some years, on 17.07.2006. She was removed in the early hours of the morning when a large number of police from Campsie Police Station arrived for the purposes of executing a search warrant. The wife, who had met her husband in 1989, married him in April 1992. She had no assets and her husband had significant assets including the Wiley Park Hotel, Guildford Hotel and the Nortons on Norton Hotel.

The husband’s assets exceeded $15 million.

The wife was physically escorted by police to a section of the Hotel where the husband’s solicitor Mr Stephen Alexander directed that she forthwith remove herself from the Hotel or otherwise she would be charged. He didn’t indicate what she would be charged with. The wife had no choice whatsoever which was extraordinary situation and she was forced from the hotel and onto the street without her clothing or personal effects including her beloved three dogs.

The wife also instituted proceedings in the Supreme Court of New South Wales against the State of New South Wales and Mr Yeats and Jetobee Pty Limited, the corporate entity controlled by the husband. She sought damages including exemplary and aggravated damages for the malicious procurement of the warrant, her wrongful arrest and false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. The husband filed a cross-claim in the Supreme Court alleging that the wife had defrauded himself and Jetobee Pty Limited for the sum of $800,000.00.

Justice Le Poer Trench considered the principles applicable to an interim spouse maintenance order. His Honour noted that the uncontradictive evidence was that the wife was living in shared accommodation consisting of a two bedroom unit that her sister and brother-in-law lived in.

She had previously resided in accommodation at the Wiley Park Hotel where she undertook a considerable amount of work in management and renovation. The husband lived in the Guildford Hotel. His assets were $12.5 million and liabilities of $8.8 million. As a result of the incident on 17 July 2006, the wife was traumatised and her health was such that she was unable to obtain employment.

The husband had $1.045 million in publicly listed shares as well as a Bentley valued at $150,000.00. The dividends from Jetobee Pty Limited were $50,000.00, AMP dividends of $25,000.00 and other dividends from public companies of $3,000.00. His Honour failed to see how an income of $78,000.00 produced a tax liability of $80,000.00 which is asserted by the husband.

The husband was owed $1.7 million by LJ & CA Yeats Pty Limited and he had a portfolio worth $1.045 million. The husband had not disclosed any detail of the movement in any of the loan accounts he has with any of his associated corporate interests.

The wife’s application sought payment of $300,000 for the provision of costs for the family law proceedings and $100,000 for payment of costs in relation to the criminal proceedings the wife was facing. The application was brought pursuant to s.79 of the Act. See Paris King Investments Pty Ltd v Rayhill [2006] NSWSC 578.

Justice Le Poer Trench concluded that the sum of $100,000.00 to be paid to the wife’s solicitor’s trust account to be applied only to costs for the family law proceedings noting that in the future the wife could seek further amounts should that be necessary.

His Honour also ordered that the wife be paid the sum of $100,000.00 by way of interim/partial property settlement to be paid to the wife’s solicitors and be applied by them to fund the wife’s defence in criminal charges brought by the Crown in relation to allegations against the wife during the time she was at the Wiley Park Hotel.

In a post script to this decision the criminal proceedings against the wife were heard at the Burwood Local Court before Magistrate Barkell. Mr Yeats gave evidence in which he was cross-examined about the information that he had provided to investigating police in a meeting at the Norton on Norton Hotel just shortly before the execution of the search warrant by police from Campsie. At that meeting was a licensing police officer from Leichhardt Police Station.

Mr Yeats was cross-examined about information given to the Police and in particular assertions that in respect of an account in respect of which normally would be substantially in credit. In cross-examination it was revealed that Mr Yeats had himself caused electronically to be transferred a large sum of money from that account so as to deplete the credit balance in the account to demonstrate that monies had allegedly been withdrawn from the account by the wife. The fact is that these monies had been withdrawn from their account by Mr Yeats himself.

All of the charges against Ms Yeats were dismissed and in fact, her Honour was not satisfied that a “prima facie” case had been made out.