“Anton Piller orders”, which were previously known as “search orders”, are a form of injunctive relief made by a Court compelling one party (the Respondent) to allow another party (the Applicant) to enter a property to inspect, remove or make copies of documents or other items. If a Respondent fails to comply with such an order or attempts to obstruct its execution, they may be found guilty of a contempt of court.
Anton Piller orders are extraordinary orders, designed to obtain and preserve vital evidence pending the final determination of a proceeding in a case where it can be shown that there is a risk that, if forewarned, the Respondent will destroy or hide the evidence, or cause it to be removed from the jurisdiction of the court. These orders are often also sought in the Family Court where the Respondent is acting dishonestly. For example, if they are attempting to hide assets or holding secret bank accounts in an attempt to influence the determination of assets to be divided between parties in an action. As such, these orders are often made ex parte or without notice to the other side involved in trial.
However, due to the intrusive nature the court will generally only grant such orders in extreme cases where it is absolutely necessary so that justice can be done between the parties. In order to be granted an Anton Piller order, a party must satisfy the court of four main requirements:
- The Applicant can demonstrate a strong prima facie case: you have emails, messages or other evidence showing the Respondent has hidden assets of substance;
- The potential or actual damage suffered by the Applicant is serious: if the assets or documents were not disclosed, you as the Applicant would lose a large sum of money under a settlement;
- There is clear evidence of possession by the Respondent of incriminating documents or things; and
- There is a real possibility that the Respondent might, if he or she became aware of the application by the Applicant, destroy the materials.
In addition to this, Rule 14.04(3) of the Family Law Rules 2004 requires that an application to the court for such an order be supported by an affidavit which includes:
- a description of the document or property to be seized or inspected;
- the address of the premises where the order is to be carried out;
- the reason the Applicant believes the Respondent may remove, destroy or alter the document or property unless the order is made;
- a statement about the damage the Applicant is likely to suffer if the order is not made;
- a statement about the value of the property to be seized; and
- if permission is granted, the name of the person (if any) who the Applicant wishes to accompany the Applicant to the Respondent’s premises.
In order to ensure such an order is successfully awarded, an Applicant must avoid all potential abuse of procedure ensuring that all the above requirements imposed are strictly observed.
Please note that the above is general information and should not be relied upon as legal advice. All situations are different and legal advice must always be tailored to the specific situation.