Press Release: Tini Owens and Hugh Owens

29/03/2017

The Court of Appeal Judgment in this highly unusual contested divorce between Tini Owens and Hugh Owens has now been handed down.  Three Appeal Court Judges, led by the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, refused Mrs Owens appeal to divorce her husband.

The Court of Appeal upheld the previous ruling of His Honour Judge Tolson QC that, although the marriage had irretrievably broken down, in spite of their separation for more than 2 years, and the 27 allegations of what Mrs Owens considered to be Mr Owens’ unreasonable behaviour towards her, Mr Owens had not behaved in such a way that Mrs Owens could not reasonably be expected to live with him and to remain married to him.  The effect of this decision, and Mr Owens’ refusal to divorce his wife, is to keep Mrs Owens locked in a loveless marriage that the Court recognised is plainly over.

Simon Beccle, Mrs Owens’ solicitor and partner at Payne Hicks Beach, commented:-

“This much awaited decision will be met by lawyers and non-lawyers alike with dismay.  The Court of Appeal upheld the Judge’s earlier decision that the conduct of Mr Owens towards his wife, Tini Owens, who has been a supportive wife, mother and business partner to her husband for many years, which she found intolerable and which led her to leave the matrimonial home, was not unreasonable.  The test the Court has to apply is “would any right thinking person come to the conclusion that this husband has behaved in a way that this wife cannot reasonably be expected to live with him, taking into account the circumstances and characters and personalities of the parties” and the cumulative effect such behaviour has on this wife.  The Court of Appeal recognised that the test must be judged by the modern standards of the man on the “Boris Bus” and not the “Clapham Omnibus.”  Yet the trial judge’s finding that it does not amount to unreasonable behaviour for a wife to be subjected to repeated criticism and bullying by an “old school husband” does not reflect today’s thinking.  The petition referred to 27 separate incidents of conduct that Mrs Owens personally found to be unreasonable.  Solicitors are encouraged throughout divorce proceedings to defuse acrimony by removing inflammatory details.  The Court of Appeal, led by the President of the Family Division, recognised the need for change in the law, a sentiment which has recently been echoed by Supreme Court Justice, Lord Wilson.  The judgment emphasises the intellectual hypocrisy of the current law and the need for change, but legislation will inevitably take a significant period of time to introduce and will not assist Tini Owens.  We consider the decision of the Court of Appeal to be wrong and are seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court on this important issue.”

Mrs Owens’ said:  “I am deeply saddened and disappointed by the Court of Appeal’s Judgment.  I consider it to be unjust that a Court can dismiss the conduct of my husband towards me over a protracted period of time, which I have found to be unbearable, as “anodyne” and “lacking beef” on the basis that I have exaggerated the seriousness of the allegations.

It was, like I am sure is the case in many marriages, the drip-drip effect of being berated and humiliated by my husband that has made it impossible for me to live with him.  I consider it is perverse and unjust for a Court to dismiss the effect this has had on me as modest.  The failure of the Court to recognise such controlling behaviour to be just as unreasonable as other forms of abuse is outdated. 

Whilst I am grateful to the Court for their sympathy, in particular the supportive words of Lady Justice Hallett, it appears contradictory to acknowledge that behaviour considered trivial in the context of a happy marriage may assume a greater significance for a husband or wife trapped in an unhappy marriage but not then to recognise that that conduct is unreasonable.  A change in the law, when and if it comes, which is what the Court of Appeal openly recognises should happen, will not help me.   I am now stuck in a loveless marriage for the next three years unless my husband takes the honourable and humane course urged upon him by Lady Justice Hallett. That seems desperately unfair to me.”

 

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