A successful insurance agent must pay his former partner £28,500, the Court of Appeal has confirmed.
David Southwell set up home with partner Catherine Blackburn in 2000, buying a house in Droitwich, Worcestershire in his own name and paying the mortgage for this. But when the relationship ended “acrimoniously” in 2012, his now ex-partner and her two daughters were left with nowhere to go, the Mail reports.
She claimed he had promised her “a home for life” and “the security a wife would have” but he denied this, saying he had never intended to marry Miss Blackburn and had no obligations to her once the relationship ended.
The couple met in 2000, when the teaching assistant was recently divorced. She moved in with Mr Southwell two years later, giving up a secure rented home and contributing several thousand to the new property, following reported assurances from Mr Southwell.
Sitting at Worcester County Court last year, Judge Daniel Pearce-Higgins QC described the 55 year-old as “shrewd and cautious” and a man who did not want to marry. He told the court that he had seen friends’ marriages break up.
But the judge insisted that the insurance handled had been acting “unconscionably” in trying to deny Miss Blackburn a share in the property and ordered him to give her enough to set up home in the way she had been living before they met.
The judge said:
“He did not envisage marriage because he was aware that, as a wife, Miss Blackburn might have a substantial claim against him in the event of a breakdown.”
Mr Southwell had been willing to provide a home to Miss Blackburn and her daughters, the judge declared, but it was to be on “his terms” only.
“With the benefit of hindsight, I conclude that [Ms Blackburn] now realises she was too trusting and foolish and she likes to think she would have been more cautious and more aware of the need for proper documents and clear promises and firm agreements.”
Mr Southwell, an insurance claims handler, unsuccessfully appealed the ruling. Appeal Court judges unanimously backed Judge Pearce-Higgins’ ruling, saying Mr Southwell had promised his ex-partner a “home for life”.