Millionaire jailed over noncompliance with divorce settlement

A millionaire property developer has been sentenced to 14 months’ imprisonment, after being convicted of contempt of court for not properly complying with his divorce settlement.

The settlement in question required John Hart, 83, to pass £3.5 million of his £9.4 million fortune to his ex-wife, Karen Hart. He was also ordered to hand over shares in Drakesdown Properties Limited, a business he owned.

Reports suggest that the shares amounted to a “substantial part of the wealth” involved in the June 2015 settlement.

However, he had subsequently “done his utmost to frustrate her ability to run it efficiently and effectively” according to the judge, Stephen Wildblood QC, who added that Hart “bitterly resents” the company’s transfer.

The judge said that, having delayed transferring the company, all the management records apart from a pair of bank statements as well as several licences and leases were “stripped out” by Hart and his staff.

Sentencing the businessman to 14 months’ imprisonment, Wildblood said: “Mr Hart, 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.”

He added: “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.”

Wildblood described Hart’s actions as being “motivated by a wish to demonstrate his resentment against Ms Hart about the financial orders that were made in these proceedings in her favour.”

At Moore Thompson, we have a number of experts who are experienced in providing robust reports and acting as expert witnesses in court proceedings on issues including divorce, particularly where substantial assets are involved.

Alongside business valuations, we can advise on whether and how funds can be extracted from the business and assist with financial settlement negotiations, including splitting pensions, share transactions, setting up trusts and investing funds.

We can assist also with completing Form E, which discloses the individual’s income and assets, and examine the other party’s form. Additionally, we are able to provide advice on the tax implications of disposing of matrimonial assets. For more information on our forensic and expert witness services, please contact Ken Maggs on 01775 711333.