Judge refuses to jail man embroiled in cash dispute with ex-wife

Years of fighting over money have taken their toll on a businessman and ex-wife, a High Court judge says.

David and Shelley Mann's marriage lasted a decade but they had been embroiled in divorce litigation for 17 years, Mrs Justice Roberts heard.

Two daughters were six and seven when court fights began - now they were in their early 20s, said the judge.

Mr Mann, 50, was "not well" - and his 48-year-old former wife was obviously exhausted, she added.

Mrs Justice Roberts aired her concerns in a ruling on the latest round of the couple's battle following hearings in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

The couple had divorced in 1999, said the judge.

Mr Mann had agreed to pay his ex-wife £24,000 a year - plus child maintenance and school fees.

She had also kept the family home in Hampstead, London.

He had subsequently asked a judge cut the amount he should pay.

She had objected.

Over the years they had fought in front of High Court judges and in the Court of Appeal, said Mrs Justice Roberts.

She now claimed that he had not paid nearly £2 million he owed - and said he should be given a prison sentence for being in contempt of court.

He disputed the claim, denied that anything approaching £2 million was due and said in any event he did not have "the means" to pay.

Mrs Justice Roberts refused to impose a jail sentence on Mr Mann.

The judge concluded that Mr Mann's ex-wife was owed more than £500,000.

But, the judge said, she had not proved that Mr Mann had the means to pay and that he had refused to pay.

"The proceedings have taken a very significant toll," said Mrs Justice Roberts. "The husband's ill health is borne out by the medical evidence ... He is currently not a well man."

She added: "Whilst the wife remained stoically composed for most of the time her exhaustion and sense of complete frustration (if not desperation) were all too obvious."

The judge added: "I should record the sincere sympathy which I have had throughout for the wife. I accept she is facing an extremely uncertain future. She is owed a significant sum of money by her former husband but at the present time he has no means of discharging that debt."

Mrs Justice Roberts said could find no reliable evidence that Mr Mann had "hidden or secret funds".

She said Mr Mann's family were from South Africa - and the couple had married in South Africa in 1988.

Mr Mann had represented himself at the latest hearing. His ex-wife had been represented by barrister Rex Howling QC.

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