Peter Elliott, a 49 year-old helicopter pilot who has refused to leave the £500,000 farmhouse he shared with his ex-wife Leonie Butler could face a six month prison sentence for breaching a court order.
Pinewood House, situated on a 17-acre farm in Cumbria, was intended to be sold following the divorce, and the proceeds from the property split equally between Mr Elliott and Ms Butler, enabling them both to pay off their debts.
Mr Elliott was first ordered to vacate the property in 2012, but has been steadfast in his refusal to do so, threatening self-harm and suicide, should he be forcibly removed.
According to the Daily Mail, Mr Elliott took drastic measures in order to impede access to the property, such as erecting barbed wire around its perimeters and throwing rocks at bailiffs.
Mr Elliot’s lawyer Usha Sood told the Court of Appeal that his client “suffers from mental health problems which had not been properly considered”.
Ms Sood argued that, in light of these issues, it was unlikely that Mr Elliott possessed the mental capacity to be in “knowing and willful breach” of the court order.
However, in her judgment, Lady Justice Macur rejected the appeal, stating that it was Ms Butler’s “right” to sell the property, and mental health issues aside, “he has formed a view that he will deny the order of the court.”
This concurs with Mr Justice Moylan’s original judgment, which deemed Mr Elliott capable of making and understanding the consequences of his own decisions. The ruling imposed a six month suspended sentence on Mr Elliott and has upheld by Lady Justice Macur. Therefore, if Mr Elliott is still occupying the property by next Thursday, he will be jailed.
The outcome of this appeal is yet another reminder that the courts do not look kindly on refusals to comply with financial remedy orders. In the last few months, there have been several instances of the English courts imposing custodial sentences on those who breach court orders. For those who find themselves in a similar position to Ms Butler, Vardags has produced a guide on the enforcement of financial orders. Conversely, if you find yourself financially unable to continue to comply with an order, take a look at our guide to variation or capitalisation of financial orders.