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English freezing orders have been described by the Court as the 'nuclear weapons' of litigation. Section 25 of the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982 gives the English Court the power to grant freezing orders in support of foreign proceedings. This power is not limited to domestic injunctions: the English Court can grant world-wide freezing orders in support of foreign proceedings. Furthermore, in some cases it is possible to obtain such an injunction even where similar orders are not available in the jurisdiction in which the main proceedings are being heard. Furthermore, English injunctions (whether domestic or world-wide), usually include disclosure orders which oblige defendants to disclose their assets to the claimant.
In order to obtain an injunction in support of foreign proceedings, the claimant must show that it is "expedient" for the Court to grant the order. This term is not defined in statute, so the Court is guided by case law (which evolves over time). Key points which claimants should demonstrate are:
- They have a claim in a foreign jurisdiction which has been issued, or which the claimant undertakes to issue within a short period of time.
- The defendant resides in England, or has assets in this jurisdiction.
- A freezing order is not inconsistent with the law of the jurisdiction where the primary claim is proceeding. This consistency is necessary both as a matter of policy and procedure. The claimant must show that there is no policy reason (in the jurisdiction of the main claim) why an injunction should not be granted in England. They must also show that as a matter of procedure, an English freezing order will not lead to procedural disharmony, for example inconsistent judgments in different jurisdictions.
These and other relevant principles are highly fact specific. It is therefore always necessary to consider carefully the facts of a case and relevant principles of law in the main jurisdiction of the claim.
English freezing orders can provide key advantages in litigation. Provided they are policed properly, they can ensure assets are not dissipated and avoid a pyrrhic victory at the end of proceedings. Furthermore, London is a global financial centre and many defendants own assets in this jurisdiction which are easily frozen, such as real estate or cash in bank accounts. When bringing fraud claims against individuals who operate internationally, it is always worth considering applying for an English freezing order in support of local proceedings.