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Divorced man faces jail after refusing to leave home

A man who has been ordered to sell his Cumbrian farmhouse faces jail after barricading himself inside.

The 49 year-old former helicopter pilot was initially ordered to leave the house, near Appleby in Cumbria, in 2012 so it could be sold in divorce proceedings following a split from his now ex-wife. The sale was intended to allow the couple’s assets to be divided equally and family debts to be paid.

But, after briefly leaving, the man returned and has refused to vacate the property ever since.

According to a report in The Daily Telegraph, he has installed barbed wire and allegedly thrown rocks at bailiffs attempting to enter. He is reported to have threatened self-harm and suicide.

But he now faces jail for contempt of court following an unsuccessful appeal against a six month sentence. His lawyer argued that he suffers from mental health problems and these diminished his culpability.

She told Court of Appeal judges:

“I represent a man who the entire history of this shows has his mind on one thing – and that is remaining in occupation regardless. He is unable to be swayed about that by anyone or anything.”

She added:

“What I am saying is that the sanction [jail sentence] that was used was not a sanction that was reasonable or proportionate.”

But Lady Justice Macur said the former pilot was “defying the order of the court” and had done so “for a considerable period”.

She explained:

“Whatever his mental health issues, he has formed a view that he will deny the order of the court. He has, once dispossessed, resumed possession and does so in defiance of anyone who attempts to remove him.”

His former wife had been trying to have the property sold for more than three years, the Judge noted, and the judge who imposed the jail term had concluded that, despite the former’s mental health difficulties, “he was capable of forming a decision as to his continuing occupation of the property.”

The appeal was dismissed.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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