Estrada v Al-Juffali (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs intervening) – WLR Daily

Estrada v Al-Juffali (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs intervening) [2016] EWCA Civ 176

‘The parties were married in September 2001 and had one daughter born in October 2002. The husband, a Saudi national, was a businessman of substantial means who married again in 2012 when the parties’ marriage broke down. On their divorce the wife applied for financial relief under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984. The husband applied to strike out the wife’s application , claiming immunity from suit as the permanent representative of St Lucia to the International Maritime Organisation (“IMO”), a post to which he had been appointed on 1 April 2014. The United Kingdom was required, as a matter of international law, to grant privileges and immunities to personal representatives of member states to the IMO in accordance with the Specialised Agencies Convention and the Headquarters Agreement. A permanent representative was entitled to the same immunity from suit and legal process as the head of a diplomatic mission, except that, by article 15 of the International Maritime Organisation (Immunities and Privileges) Order 2002), a permanent representative who was permanently resident in the United Kingdom was only entitled to immunities and privileges in respect of his official acts. The Foreign Secretary certified that the Foreign Office had been informed by the IMO of the husband’s appointment as permanent representative of St Lucia, of his arrival date and had not been notified that his diplomatic functions had terminated. Although on the face of it that certificate was conclusive evidence of the husband’s appointment by virtue of section 8 of the International Organisations Act 1968, the judge balanced the husband’s claim to immunity against the wife’s rights to access to the courts under article 6 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. He concluded that the husband had not undertaken any duties or performed any functions as permanent representative, that the appointment was an artificial construct to defeat the wife’s claims on the breakdown of the marriage and that, since the husband was permanently resident in the United Kingdom, he was entitled to immunity only in respect of official acts performed in the exercise of his functions. In consequence the judge refused to strike out the wife’s claim.’

WLR Daily, 22nd March 2016