A millionaire property tycoon has been jailed for contempt of court after refusing to honour a divorce settlement.
The property developer, John Hart, had been ordered to transfer £3.5 million of his fortune to his ex-wife following a bitter divorce battle that, at one point, was heard in the Court of Appeal. Along with the order to hand over the £3.5 million, the 83-year-old was also told to relinquish his shares in Drakestown Properties Limited, making his former spouse, Karen White, sole owner of that company.
Ms Hart’s acquisition of Drakestown Properties got off to a bad start, with her ex-husband delaying the transfer of the shares in contravention of the court order. Once she had taken over, she then found that the management records of the company had been removed.
The contempt of court offence came about after Mr Hart continued to hold back the information needed for Ms Hart to run the company. This was despite two further court orders to make the necessary documents available.
Stephen Wildblood QC, the judge in charge of the trial, said that Mr Hart had “done his utmost to frustrate [Ms Hart’s] ability to run it efficiently and effectively” due to his bitter resentment over the original divorce settlement.
Addressing the defendant, the judge went on to say: “So serious are these acts of contempt that only a sentence of imprisonment is justified.
“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 received a custodial sentence of 14 months.