Mrs Hart was disappointed with her financial settlement. She appealed to the Court of Appeal but the appeal was rejected. Her team had argued that the High Court Judge had not punished Mr Hart for his refusal to be straight about his finances and had based her settlement on the sum that he did disclose, rather than the sum that should have been disclosed.
The legal world was surprised at the Court of Appeal’s decision, which was also a renewed endorsement of the very wide discretion of judges dealing with financial claims, as opposed to the more forensic and formulaic analysis that has become popular in recent years.
Mr Hart then squandered the advantage he’d received by refusing to hand over documents that Mrs Hart needed to manage the property companies that she’d been awarded.
Eventually Mr Hart ran out of road – and judicial patience - and was ordered to serve 14 months in prison for his ‘contemptuous disregard’ for the court’s orders that he produce the documents.
Back to the Court of Appeal where the court has today upheld the long prison sentence, some of which Mr Hart can no longer avoid, even if he now complies.
Aged 83, and in poor health, he’s now contemplating prison. A draconian outcome, but one that reminds us that the Family Court does have teeth where litigants refuse to cooperate. Imprisoning divorce clients is rare, particularly those of Mr Hart’s advanced years, but showing contempt for the court can still have very serious consequences.