A farmer resisting a divorce payout for the past two years was fined rather than sent to jail by a High Court judge because he would welcome a prison term as “an opportunity for martyrdom”.
The judge also said the public should not have to bear the cost of keeping Wilbert Wesley Carson in prison.
He instead imposed a £10,000 fine for contempt of court unless he complies with orders for full disclosure of his assets within a 28-day deadline.
In his judgment, Mr Justice Weir also set out how a number of farms involved in the case had been valued at more than £1 million.
Mr Justice Weir described Mr Carson (66) as “truculent and unco-operative” for denying that he knew who benefited from his late mother's will, or the acreage of his land holdings.
A decree nisi has already been granted following a petition for divorce which was brought by Mr Carson’s wife, Esther Pauline Carson.
She was just 16 and he was 21 when they were married in 1965.
Mrs Carson issued proceedings in 2008 on the grounds of five years’ separation, saying she had left the matrimonial home in November 1993.
No addresses for the couple were disclosed in the judgment, al
though reference was made to firms of solicitors in Cookstown.
Mr Justice Weir said Mr Carson claimed to have opposed the divorce on the basis that sexual relations between the couple continued after the alleged date of separation.
After the decree nisi was granted, the case moved to the issue of a financial settlement.
The judge said: “The petitioner swore an affidavit on October 30, 2008 in which she set out her account of the sad history of her long married life with the respondent, deposed to her assets and what she knew of those of the respondent including, in his case, a number of farms for which valuations have been obtained on her behalf totalling in excess of £1m.”
He pointed out that Mr Carson failed to co-operate with attempts to discover the extent of his assets and any liabilities.
“I warned the respondent that he was in contempt of court and that unless he complied with the orders... I was minded to commit him to prison for a term of 14 days,” Mr Justice Weir said.
In a judgment delivered last month but only now published, he added: “It is I think clear from the foregoing history that the respondent has quite wilfully and deliberately failed, despite being given every possible latitude and consideration both by the Masters and by me, to comply with the orders of the court.”