Monday, October 19, 2015
British judges launch another attack on marriage
British men often now refuse to marry -- given British divorce laws and divorce judgements in British courts they are simply being realistic. It's too risky. British courts have made marriage into a form of prostitution. British women should cease to wonder why men "won't commit"
Two designer-clad, middle-aged women posed outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday, both wreathed in triumphant smiles. And little wonder: together they had won an historic victory which means they can go back to court to claim more of their ex-husbands’ money.
This is despite the fact that they had arrived at financial settlements when their marriages broke down years ago.
One of the women, Alison Sharland, 48, had already pocketed no less than £10.4 million from her software tycoon husband’s assets — as well as the promise of 30 per cent of the proceeds of any stock market flotation of his computer firm.
After the case, she said: ‘My legal battle has never been about the money, it has always been a matter of principle.’
She hoped the Supreme Court judges’ decision, which will allow anyone to contest their divorce settlement at any time in the future if they believe their ex didn’t come clean about his or her assets, will ‘send out a message to everyone going through a divorce’.
I bet it sent a chill up the spine of every divorced man. Two of my male friends called immediately after hearing the decision, asking me despairingly, ‘does this mean my ex-wife can come after me again?’
What is now to stop any bitter divorcee claiming they didn’t get their fair share, that their ex had hidden assets? How many will seek to force their former husband — or wife — into a lengthy, expensive and painful legal battle, and in doing so reopen the emotional wounds not just for them, but for any children caught in the crossfire?
Because don’t forget, when parents go to war, children are often the innocent casualties.
The question now must surely be: was this Supreme Court ruling a victory for downtrodden ex-wives everywhere, or another nail in the coffin of marriage?
In the cases of Mrs Sharland and Varsha Gohil, the judges ruled that their husbands had hidden the true values of their fortunes during divorce proceedings, hence they had a right to contest their settlements.
The head of Resolution, the organisation that represents family lawyers, put it pretty succinctly: ‘This has significant implications for other cases where assets are suspected of having been concealed and could see many other cases being reopened.’
We all know how petty people can become when divorcing, how the bitterness simmers like a slow poison. The problem is that almost everyone ends up feeling aggrieved. They either believe they were short-changed in the settlement, or come to resent their ex’s new life or partner. They end up fighting over a dinner service.
But this new ruling will mean that bitter women and men will start to look back rather than forward.
I must admit, I feel some sympathy for one of the women who won her case this week. Mrs Gohil’s ex-husband was clearly a shady character, a lawyer jailed for money-laundering. She walked away from her marriage with £270,000 and the keys to the family car, when the Crown Prosecution Service said he was worth £35 million.
Out-and-out crooks like Bhadresh Gohil deserve all they get. But Charles Sharland is another case altogether. A self-made multi-millionaire, the son of a farmer, he worked hard to create a business which at one point was reported to be valued at hundreds of millions of pounds.
His wife says he lied about whether he was going to float his firm on the stock market, and that she lost out as a result. Which raises the question of why he felt compelled to do so.
Perhaps it’s because he, like many, felt the whole system is so damned unfair when a man — or woman — who has slaved for years to build up a business then has to part with half of it to a spouse who played no active role in creating it.
Yes, Mrs Sharland cared for their children, and of course that is tremendously important — but half of his company? Isn’t a minimum of £10.4 million more than enough to provide a very comfortable lifestyle for any mother of three?
The plight of caring for their autistic son was highlighted in court. But does an ex-wife deserve more because she cares for a vulnerable child? Does she think she should be paid millions for carrying out a duty most mothers would regard as an act of love?
Perhaps we should not be too distracted by the details of Mrs Sharland and Mrs Gohil’s grievances. The simple point is that this ruling is a green light to all divorcees who are convinced they were hard done by.
And, of course, it is a charter for divorce lawyers to start the meter running. The Sharlands alone are thought to have spent about £2 million on legal fees.
How long before the phones begin to ring in divorce lawyers’ offices up and down the land?
First on the line might be Heather Mills, who believed she was robbed in her divorce settlement from Paul McCartney. She claimed he was worth far more than he declared, and in the end got only a fifth of the £125 million she was seeking (a mere £24.3 million!).
This new precedent also means that an ex-wife or husband can go back to court even if their former spouse is dead — which suggests even further legal complexities. That could be good news for Michelle Young, who has fought for years for the millions she believed her now-deceased ex, property tycoon Scot Young, had squirrelled away from her.
But I believe the true legacy of this ruling will be just another crack running through the ever-more-unstable edifice of marriage.
There was a recurring theme in the comments on Mail Online yesterday. There were many from men, who are still largely the breadwinners in relationships, saying: ‘Why would any man in his right mind ever want to get married?’
One wrote: ‘This just goes to show how [there is] one day of celebration, the wedding day, and then fighting over money through a divorce court afterwards. Very painful. I know through experience and watching someone I truly loved turning on me for money, which I had beforehand, earned through serving my country.
If I was asked to recommend marriage to anyone nowadays, I would say DO NOT DO IT.’
It’s not as though marriage is in such rude health that this legal verdict won’t do it harm. According to the Marriage Foundation, the number of people marrying has fallen from 90 per cent to 59 per cent since the Seventies. And 42 per cent of marriages end in divorce.
More frightening still is that while 90 per cent of today’s 60-year-old women have been married, it is predicted that only 52 per cent of today’s 20-year-olds will ever marry. And so the social fabric which has bound families together for centuries will grow weaker.
Too many young men don’t want to wed because they are afraid of losing so much of what they’ve worked for if it goes wrong, which it so often does.
The system seems increasingly stacked against the breadwinners, whether they be men or women.
Furthermore, many men feel that the entire judicial system is anti-male, especially when it comes to giving fathers access to their children, or in placing sole responsibility for providing for them on the man, even when the ex-wife could and should work.
All of which mitigates against harmonious separations when marriages collapse.
No one understands the bitterness of divorce more than I do. My ex-husband wasn’t a bad man, he didn’t beat me or rob me. We were in love once. Yet by the end of the divorce proceedings, which cost us each a small fortune, we were hardly recognisable as the same people. We were depressed, desperate and wanting to hurt each other. In the end, we even fought over custody of the cats.
I’ve seen the same thing with so many of my friends — the bitterness that sets in, the desire for vengeance and a belief that the only way left to hurt someone is through their wallet.
That’s why I worry so much about this new ruling being a vehicle for further acrimony.
Of course couples should not conceal their assets from each other if they are separating. My advice to anyone going through it would be to come clean, put it all on the table, accept whatever ruling the courts make or, better still, what you can agree between yourselves without legal proceedings, then move on.
Every lawyer’s letter you send drags you farther into the bare-knuckle fight that too often passes for the legal process these days.
Before this week, the end of a divorce at least meant you could start on the long road to recovery. Broken hearts mend in time, and the sooner you get on with it the better.
Now, there is a constant possibility that your ex could come back at you at any time to challenge a court judgment — and rip open the wound all over again.
Flashy multicultural lawyer closed down
John Blavo, who previously said he had several ex-Premier League stars as his clients, has had his successful legal firm closed as it is being investigated by Scotland Yard fraud team.
Blavo and Co, which had 17 offices in the UK and its headquarters in London, was closed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) last week after concerns the firm was 'acting dishonestly.'
Mr Blavo has previously worked with a several Premier League footballers, including former Arsenal right back Lauren and ex West Ham full back John Paintsil.
Originally from Ghana, Mr Blavo, built up his firm to make it the second highest earning legal practice in England and Wales, according to the Ministry of Justice.
This year, records for three months up until June show that Blavo's firm made £300,000 worth of profit after tax after generating an impressive turnover of £3.3million in the period.
The firm held its summer party in the impressive City Hall in central London and maintained a dedicated emphasis on charity outreach work.
Mr Blavo is well known for writing the Football Lawyer blog for The Independent and kept an array of cars, with personalised number plates outside his home in St Albans, Hertfordshire.
'We have seen evidence of enormous expenditure next door, not only the Bentley but the Lamborghini, Porsches, BMWs, Ferraris and Maseratis - hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of cars,' a neighbour told The Times. 'It seems they had no idea this was collapsing around them,' the neighbour suggested.
The firm released a statement this week, saying: 'This firm has been advised, by the SRA, that it wishes to intervene. We have not been provided with an opportunity to make representations. We are currently taking legal advice and do not wish to make any further comments at this stage.'
More contempt for the people from an elite Leftist
Leftists used to claim to speak for "the people" but that pretence is pretty worn out now. They speak for the intellectuals now. Although Schama's contempt for the people is reprehensible, his attitude to refugees is more forgiveable when one notes his Jewish background
By TOBY YOUNG
Last Thursday, I, along with 2.7 million other viewers, tuned into BBC1’s Question Time, to watch award-winning historian (and BBC presenter) Simon Schama take on Rod Liddle, the outspoken columnist. It was to prove an eye-opening encounter – for reasons that go to the heart of intellectual debate in Britain today.
There was much to look forward to. Schama, the very acme of cosmopolitan sophistication, is an internationally acclaimed university professor. Liddle is a bluntly spoken Millwall FC supporter with controversial views on immigration.
Thus, about 30 minutes in, all hell broke loose when an audience member asked about the international refugee crisis. Liddle said he didn’t think it was a good idea to open our borders to those fleeing from conflict zones.
Schama gave the journalist a withering look. ‘Go back to your journalistic hackery… and turn your suburban face away from the plight of the miserable,’ he sneered. For a second, I couldn’t believe my ears.
Had Schama just dismissed someone’s views, not because they were unreasonable or unsupported by the evidence, but because they were the sort of opinions you’d expect to hear on the 7.42 from Guildford? This was the moment the mask slipped. We were given a glimpse of the snobbery that underpins so much of the metropolitan elite’s world view.
According to this high priest of the liberal intelligentsia, Liddle didn’t deserve to be taken seriously because he was a resident of that lower middle-class hinterland that people like Schama only ever see from the business-class cabin of a Boeing 747 as it soars away from Heathrow.
Liddle was suburban and, as such, he was narrow-minded and mean-spirited – quite unlike the large-hearted citizen of the world at the other end of the panel.
Where Liddle sees ‘immigrants’ with his beady, suspicious eyes, Schama sees ‘refugees’.
For a second, I experienced a pang of self-loathing. I, too, worry about the impact of millions of asylum seekers from North Africa and the Middle East arriving on our shores. Does that make me hopelessly provincial?
Should I be more urbane, like the author of Rembrandt’s Eyes? (Although it must be easier to overcome any reservations if you don’t actually live here. Schama is the Professor of History and Art History at Columbia University in New York.)
But then I reconsidered sharply. What precisely is so despicable, so morally bereft, about one who lives in the suburbs? More than 80 per cent of the British population now live in areas that can be classified as suburban. That’s approximately 52 million people. Should we all be ashamed of ourselves?
We saw this same contempt for the residents of Middle England from Labour during the General Election campaign.
I’m not just thinking of Emily Thornberry, the MP for Islington South, who sneered at the owner of a white van in Rochester for displaying the flag of St George.
I’m also thinking of Ed Miliband’s tone of moral superiority when railing about food banks and zero-hours contracts. It was as if anyone who wasn’t intending to vote Labour was small-minded and lacking in compassion – suburban, as Professor Schama would put it.
Could that disdainful attitude have played a part in why the British people awarded the Conservatives a majority last May for the first time in 23 years?
Labour might have done well in urban areas like London, but in the rest of England, the map turned blue. Perhaps the silent majority who live in the suburbs are getting a little tired of being condescended to by these Left-wing panjandrums.
To be honest, I’m fed up with being dismissed as selfish and materialistic just because I am a member of the bourgeoisie. My wife and I moved to the suburbs from Central London eight years ago. Like so many others, we sought good-quality housing, easy access to the countryside and low rates of crime. This was the environment in which we wanted to raise a family. We are now firmly embedded in the community. My wife is captain of the ladies’ second team at the tennis club. When I go to work in the morning, I take a plastic bag with me so I can pick up any litter I see on my way to the station. Carriage lights illuminate our gravel front drive at night.
I also helped set up the free school that my eldest child now attends. Professor Schama’s snobbish dismissal of Rod Liddle reminded me of the opposition I faced. I was ridiculed on Any Questions by Polly Toynbee for going to such extraordinary lengths to secure a decent education for my children. Why didn’t I just send them to the local state school?
Her criticisms might have carried more weight if she hadn’t sent her own daughter to Westminster, one of the most prestigious private schools in the country.
The same sneering contempt is detectable in the attitude of those who wish to remain in the EU towards those of us who want to leave. We are described as ‘anti-European’, rather than ‘anti-EU’, as if it is the very idea of Britain being part of something larger than itself that we’re frightened of, rather than being absorbed by a corrupt, undemocratic superstate.
Those who expressed reservations about joining the euro in 2000 were treated with the same lofty disdain. Conservative Eurosceptics were pilloried as ‘xenophobic’, ‘swivel-eyed’ and ‘mad’ by liberal commentators on the BBC. Yet 15 years later, they have been proved right.
Go further back in history to the triumph of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and the pattern repeats itself.
She was dismissed by the educated elite as an ignorant housewife who tried to apply the lessons of running a home to managing the nation’s economy.
Dr Jonathan Miller, the Simon Schama of his day, described her as ‘repulsive in almost every way’. He objected to her ‘odious suburban gentility’ – there’s that word again – and complained about her ‘sentimental, saccharine patriotism’.
By 1990, when she left office, this ‘odious’ figure had tamed the trade unions, cut taxes, got inflation under control, overseen a revolution in home ownership, restored a sense of national pride and, in partnership with Ronald Reagan, won the Cold War. Not bad for a suburban housewife.
Margaret Thatcher was the authentic voice of the suburbs, the quiet majority who don’t shout about their compassion on programmes like Question Time, but who show they care in little ways, every day.
When Professor Schama has jetted off to his next international speaking engagement, it is those of us in the suburbs and our representatives in Government who will be holding this country together.
Professor's passionate plea to repeal laws to shackle the British press
Imagine a world in which the rich, the influential and the plain malevolent are no longer subject to proper public scrutiny – where corporate executives in the luxury of chrome and glass towers are, like the landlords of uninhabitable slums, free to break the law without fear of question, let alone criticism, from the press.
It is one in which the MPs expenses scandal would never come to light, in which the threat of the libel courts would be enough to kill all journalistic enquiries stone dead.
Far-fetched as this might sound, it is the world we are about to enter. If they are not repealed, new laws will take effect next month which will undermine the tradition of free speech that has served Britain well for 300 years.
Press freedom in Britain faces a dire and immediate threat. Here in the UK we face the prospect of a state-sanctioned regulator, backed by Royal Charter, exercising ultimate control over what we can read in our newspapers. Abroad, campaigners for freedom of speech, who consider this country's tradition an example to emulate, face grotesque betrayal.
The reason? A poisonous trap, left on the statute book in the aftermath of the Leveson Report, is about to snap shut. If it closes it will impose the most severe restrictions on the freedom of the press in any advanced democracy.
A series of legal measures including clauses under the Crime and Courts Act 2013 and the consequences of the Royal Charter (all due to be implemented in the coming weeks) include imposing punitive legal costs against newspapers that refuse to submit to supervision by the State; limits on contacts between the police and journalists that may endanger the administration of justice, and new ways for the powerful to prevent reporting about their affairs.
Under the Act, judges will even be able to impose costs and damages on newspapers that win libel cases.
A paper might prove its allegations but still be punished because it has not signed up to the Royal Charter on press regulation. Of course, not a single newspaper – national or local – will sign. To do so would be such a blatant breach of democratic principle that it is simply unthinkable.
But the effect of not doing so will be chilling. Take the press exposure of MPs' expenses. Faced with the threat of hundreds of libel suits from hundreds of MPs, no newspaper could possibly think of running such a story because – win or lose – the costs would be prohibitive.
It threatens, too, the sort of work which local newspapers can and should do: investigating employers who maintain unsafe, unhealthy workplaces, perhaps. Again, the mere prospect of legal action would mean such stories are too risky to pursue.
Our newspaper industry sets an example watched closely around the world. We owe it to people struggling to win freedom of speech not to set an example that will undermine their efforts.
Yet even now, British newspapers are under assault. An appalling example – a direct result of the Leveson Inquiry – is the police's Operation Elveden investigation into payments by journalists to public officials. This cost £20million and achieved the conviction of only one journalist out of 34 arrested or charged.
It ended only when the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, announced a humiliating climb down. The malicious zeal with which the police pursued journalists simply doing their jobs was a national disgrace.
Britain faces a crucial choice. Since the abolition of press licensing in 1695, our newspapers have been free from interference by government. Now our Parliament is preparing to restrict editorial independence.
I do not believe a majority of MPs want this appalling outcome. The principle that journalists should work according to the law, but entirely free of supervision by the State, has been cherished since the reign of Queen Victoria.
Tragically, the moral panic created by phone hacking persuaded politicians in the last parliament to ignore hard-won freedoms. Instead of treating phone hacking as a criminal offence – which it was, and remains – they allowed themselves to be fooled by an ideological cabal determined to tame the press through regulation.
Operating under the banner of the Hacked Off campaign and helped by celebrities such as Hugh Grant, these enemies of popular newspapers insist a regulator sanctioned by the State should make the final decisions about what you are entitled to read.
Under various different flags of convenience, the same sanctimonious zealots have sought the same atrocious restrictions since 1979. They remain dangerously wrong. No matter how ostensibly well intentioned, regulation of the press by any organisation authorised by the State creates the polar opposite of true press freedom.
The threat those failed Elveden prosecutions exposed is far from dead. Leveson recommended restrictions on everyday contact between police officers and journalists. He blithely underestimated the extent to which such contacts have helped to solve crimes by encouraging witnesses to come forward. They also prevent the totalitarian horror of secret arrests.
If Parliament allows these recommendations, whistleblowers may choose not to reveal what they know. Then we will all be losers.
I pray that, instead of allowing the toxic legacy of Leveson to damage freedom of expression, Parliament will install legal protection for newspapers in, for example, a new British Bill of Rights. If they do not, Britain risks being humiliated internationally.
It is time for MPs to shake off any lingering resentment that newspapers exposed their lavish expense accounts and do their duty. Winston Churchill said: 'A free press is the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men prize… the vigilant guardian of the rights of the ordinary citizen.'
We cannot afford to forget it.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.