John Hart, 83, has been jailed for 14 months for contempt of court in relation to his divorce settlement, having been ordered to hand over £3.5m of assets to his ex-wife, Karen Hart, in addition to his company shares. The shares, which amounted to a “substantial part of the wealth” involved in the June 2015 divorce settlement – were transferred to Mrs Hart, making her the owner of the company.
The judge, Stephen Wildblood QC, said that Mr Hart had “done his utmost to frustrate her ability to run it efficiently and effectively” as he “bitterly resents” that the company had been transferred to his former wife. Despite being order by the court on two earlier occasions to provide details of management records to Mrs Hart, her ex-husband had wilfully refused to do so. The judge felt the acts of contempt were so serious that a custodial sentence was justified.
The judge stated, “Having reflected on the contempt that you have committed I have concluded that a financial penalty would be wholly inadequate. Orders of the court and the rule of law must be observed. Mr Hart, so serious are these acts of contempt that only a sentence of imprisonment is justified.” before sentencing Mr Hart to 14 months in prison.
The judge further commented, “This is a man who has received repeated warnings already that he must comply with court orders and he has chosen, repeatedly, not to do so”.
Commenting on the case, Pui Uro stated,”This case is the latest in a long line of protracted litigation between Mr and Mrs Hart, demonstrating the difficulties that parties often face when attempting to enforce court orders against an ex-spouse. Whilst the court has expressed some sympathy in this case, with an elderly gentleman who has in many ways, contributed positively to society and his local community, the court relies on compliance of their orders and the following of Undertakings to ensure the smooth running of the divorce and litigation process. Continued failure to do so by a party will inevitably result in heavy penalties. For many offenders, a strong warning or adverse costs order might likely be sufficient to ensure future compliance. However, despite enforcement proceedings being frustratingly time consuming and expensive, the court cannot shy away from imposing robust action against repeat offenders when such action is required.”
Serving Bedford and the surrounding villages, together with our office in central London, the solicitors at Hunter and Uro Solicitors can help you with any family law matter, including those financial matters and enforcement of court orders. If you would like to speak to one of our solicitors to discuss your case, contact us on 01234 889777 or 0207 177 9777.