[52]           The Ontario Court of Appeal, in Chiang (Trustee of) v. Chiang[4], described that case as “one of the worst cases of civil contempt to come before this court.” The plaintiff obtained judgments in Ontario to enforce California judgments but the defendants filed for bankruptcy. Contempt occurred when the defendants deliberately breached court orders while transferring millions of dollars out of the province for the sole purpose of frustrating the plaintiff’s ability to collect on its debt.  Notwithstanding the bankruptcy and affidavits setting out their impecuniosity, the defendants continued to maintain a lavish lifestyle. The defendants continuously refused to purge their contempt despite the fact that they were in a position to do so.  The trial judge ordered that one of the defendants be imprisoned for one year, and the other for eight months.

Conclusion:

[53]           I have already identified that the two elements of sanctions for contempt of court are to coerce compliance and to penalize.

[54]           I have considered the available options for sentencing and as noted above do not consider that a fine is appropriate. As well, there is no point in requiring that Mr. Sidhu do or refrain from doing anything by way of further orders at this point.

[55]           As a result, some form of imprisonment is required for sentencing, in addition to the award of costs which is set out below.

[56]           I have also considered a conditional sentence with the possibility of house arrest and the potential for suspending the imposition of a sentence, coupled with probation.

[57]           I conclude that actual jail time is the only realistic option in this case. It is completely unacceptable that the court process and its orders be deliberately, blatantly and continuously flouted as Mr. Sidhu has done. An exemplary custodial sentence should have the effect of deterring Mr. Sidhu specifically and also members of the public as a matter of general deterrence. Those who might be inclined to breach court orders, regardless of whether the orders are made within a matter of commercial litigation, or in a family or estate dispute or otherwise must realize that showing such disregard for the law and the court will not be tolerated. Likewise, it would be completely inappropriate for parties subject to court orders to assume that the penalty for a breach will be dealt with in some lenient way so as to give what amounts to a license for disobedience.

[58]           In this case, the many breaches of the six orders were detailed by me in my contempt decision. I will not repeat them here. There will be consecutive sentences for Mr. Sidhu as follows as regards contempt that is not capable of being purged:

  1.    for breach of the December 2, 2011 order: four months imprisonment;
  2.    for breach of the January 27, 2012 order: four months imprisonment;
  3.    for breach of the May 4, 2012 order: four months imprisonment;
  4.    for breach of the July 20, 2012 judgment: four months imprisonment;

[59]           As to breaches of the order of November 30, 2012 there will be a sentence of one month, consecutive.  As to the breach of the order of August 12, 2013, there will be a sentence of four months less one day, consecutive to the previous sentences. The second of those two sentences will be commuted to one month if Mr. Sidhu provides to the court a written confirmation from Melvyn Solmon that Mr. Sidhu has attended at an examination in aid of execution and cooperated in answering relevant questions.  The one month residual period to be served even if contempt is purged is reflective of the principle that while late compliance is better than no compliance, there must be some punitive consequence to the lengthy and unwarranted delay.

[60]           The sentences are to commence on Monday, May 2, 2016. Mr. Sidhu is to surrender himself to the Peel Regional Police in Brampton, Ontario on that day with a copy of the formal order that will be prepared and provided by Mr. Solmon as well as a copy of the written confirmation as to compliance the order of August 12, 2013 if his contempt has been purged. Should Mr. Sidhu fail to attend and surrender himself as required, a warrant will be issued for his arrest.

…..

[69]           As to quantum, I am satisfied that the lengthy proceedings required the extensive and complex documentary evidence provided in support of the applicants’ case, and the significant number of hours identified as having been spent on preparation and attendance. The respondents have not raised objections to the amount claimed.

[70]           Therefore, there will be an order of costs of the contempt proceedings payable by the respondents to the applicants calculated on a substantial indemnity basis fixed in the amount of $369,644.26 inclusive of HST and disbursements.

Read the full case via CanLII – 2016 ONSC 2055 (CanLII).

Advertisements