Court raps publican for treating ex and kids 'inexcusably'
A Northern Ireland publican who behaved "inexcusably badly" towards his ex-wife by not paying a £105,000 divorce settlement has been handed a six-week suspended jail sentence.
High Court Judge Mr Justice O'Hara ruled that Richard Alexander Whiteside deliberately breached an agreement on dividing up the matrimonial assets and lied about his income.
His actions were also held to have resulted in ex-wife Gladys Whiteside and their two children losing their new home.
Suspending the jail term for three months, the judge said: "It is long past time that he stopped avoiding (his) obligations."
Mrs Whiteside issued proceedings to have her ex-husband committed to prison for allegedly defaulting on an agreement reached in June 2010.
She had received £65,000 after transferring the former matrimonial home, in an undisclosed town, into his sole name.
Mr Whiteside was to pay her a further £105,000 after selling either that house or a pub that they jointly owned.
With neither property sold, the lump sum settlement remains outstanding. Unpaid spousal maintenance has also reached nearly £11,000, the court heard.
Mrs Whiteside claimed she lost the home bought after the separation because of the non-payments.
She alleged her ex-husband was hiding cash takings from the pub and had no intention of selling the former matrimonial home.
Mr Justice O'Hara held that Mr Whiteside had done little or nothing to try to sell either property.
"Most damning of all, however, is the irrefutable evidence that the respondent has lied about his income," the judge continued.
He held that a false claim was made over the commission charged for holding an auction at the time.
Mrs Whiteside also proved "conclusively" that receipts for payments to the pub's suppliers had been fraudulently altered. with the extent of the deceit estimated at £7,000.
Based on the evidence, the judge expressed doubts that Mr Whiteside ever intended to honour his obligations.
"As a result, he has caused his ex-wife and their children to lose their home while he has continued to occupy the former family home and run a business," he said.
In his newly published judgment, Mr Justice O'Hara noted Mrs Whiteside recognised the predicament that imprisoning her ex-husband would not achieve the payment or settle his debts.
"In addition she accepted that it would be very hard for their two daughters to have their father in jail," he added.
"This recognition by her is far more generous than any act on his part towards the petitioner."
But finding Mr Whiteside deliberately in breach of the settlement, he imposed the sentence of six weeks' imprisonment, suspend for three months.
The obligation to pay the £105,000 lump sum and any outstanding spousal maintenance remains.
The judge concluded: "Mr Whiteside has behaved inexcusably badly towards his wife and, as a result, towards his children."