HEATHER MILLS McCARTNEY
HERE COMES THE JUDGE
In his full ruling on the McCartney divorce, the judge was highly critical of Heather Mills's evidence. Mr Justice Bennett wrote:
"The husband’s evidence was, in my judgment, balanced. He expressed himself moderately though at times with justifiable irritation, if not anger. He was consistent, accurate and honest.
"But I regret to have to say I cannot say the same about the wife’s evidence. Having watched and listened to her give evidence, having studied the documents, and having given in her favour every allowance for the enormous strain she must have been under (and in conducting her own case) I am driven to the conclusion that much of her evidence, both written and oral, was not just inconsistent and inaccurate but also less than candid. Overall she was a less than impressive witness."
He went on to criticise Miss Mills's claims:
"I have to say I cannot accept the wife’s case that she was wealthy and independent by the time she met the husband in the middle of 1999. Her problem stems from the lack of any documentary evidence to support her case as to the level of her earnings."
"During her cross-examination she asserted for the first time that in addition to property assets she had £2m-£3m in the bank. No mention of such assets was made in her affidavit. There is no documentary evidence to support that assertion. During the hearing she was asked repeatedly to produce bank statements, which she said she thought she had in Brighton, to verify this claim. No bank statements were ever produced.
"I do not doubt that she modelled successfully and was a public speaker. But the investigation in this case of her assets and earnings as at 1999 when the parties met do not bear out her case."
After addressing her financial claims in detail, he concluded:
"I find that the wife’s case as to her wealth in 1999 to be wholly exaggerated."
Going on to discuss when their cohabitation began, and when their finances became intermingled, the judge said:
"It must be remembered that, as the husband said in evidence, there was a considerable volatility in their relationship. There were good times, there were bad times, and the relationship always left in the husband’s mind a question whether he and the wife were going to be ultimately right for each other."
After analysing the couple's finances, the judge dismissed Miss Mills's claim that their cohabitation began in March 2000:
"I reject the wife’s case on this issue. Thus, their true and settled relationship lasted from marriage (June 2002) and not from March 2000."
He was sceptical about Miss Mills's claims that her husband hampered her own career:
"There are other examples, in my judgment, which, contrary to the wife’s case, show that the husband was supportive of, or furthered, the wife’s career."
He cited the example of a lecture series in the US run by a man called Mr Benia. Miss Mills had claimed that Sir Paul prevented her from doing further lectures:
"The husband, in my judgment, gave compelling evidence that no-one tells the wife what to do. This accords with his written evidence that the wife is very strong willed. Indeed watching the wife give evidence and present her case she came across to me as strong willed and very determined. I have no doubt that had the wife really wanted to contract for dates through Mr Benia she would have done it and the husband would not have stood in her way." Addressing Miss Mills's claim that Sir Paul failed to contribute to her charity work:
"I have to say that the facts as I find them to be do not support the wife’s case. Within two months of the parties meeting in May 1999 the husband donated £150,000 to the wife’s charity (the Heather Mills Health Trust). In December 2002 and again in December 2003 the husband made a gift of £250,000 outright to the wife, thus plainly giving her the opportunity to make donations to charity."
"I find that, far from the husband dictating to and restricting the wife’s career and charitable activities, he did the exact opposite, as he says. He encouraged it and lent his support, name and reputation to her business and charitable activities. The facts as I find them do not in any way support her claim. “Compensation” therefore does not arise."
He went on to acknowledge Miss Mills's role as a wife and mother, but rejected her claim that her commitment to the marriage was "exceptional":
"In my judgment the picture painted by the husband of the wife’s part in his emotional and professional life is much closer to reality than the wife’s account. The wife, as the husband said, enjoys being the centre of attention. Her presence on his tours came about because she loved the husband, enjoyed being there and because she thoroughly enjoyed the media and public attention.
"I am prepared to accept that her presence was emotionally supportive to him but to suggest that in some way she was his “business partner” is, I am sorry to have to say, make-belief."
"I have to say that the wife’s evidence that in some way she was the husband’s “psychologist”, even allowing for hyperbole, is typical of her make-belief. I reject her evidence that she, vis-à-vis the husband, was anything more than a kind and loving person who was deeply in love with him, helped him through his grieving and like any new wife tried to integrate into their relationship the children of his former marriage.
On Miss Mills's claim for money to pay off the mortgage on a property on which there was no mortagage, he said:
"In my judgment it is unnecessary to go so far as to characterise what the wife attempted as fraudulent. However, it is not an episode that does her any credit whatsoever. Either she knew or must have known that there were no loans on Thames Reach, yet she tried to suggest that there were and thereby obtain monies by underhand means.
"Her attempts when cross-examined to suggest that she may have got in a muddle and confused this property with others, to my mind, had a hollow ring. In the light of the husband’s generosity towards her, as I have set out, I find the wife’s behaviour distinctly distasteful."
On Miss Mills's future earning power, he said:
"I accept that since April 2006 the wife has had a bad press. She is entitled to feel that she has been ridiculed even vilified. To some extent she is her own worst enemy. She has an explosive and volatile character. She cannot have done herself any good in the eyes of potential purchasers of her services as a TV presenter, public speaker and a model, by her outbursts in her TV interviews in October and November 2007. Nevertheless the fact is that at present she is at a disadvantage."
He went on:
"Her evidence there that she had turned down huge amounts of work is quite inconsistent with her assertion that her earning capacity is zero."
He ruled that she had a greater earning power than she claimed, especially if she became "less confrontational":
"I have no doubt that, despite the very adverse publicity in the last 2 years or a little under, the wife does have an earning capacity. She has earned her living since the age of 17. I have found that her association with the husband advanced, not stultified, her career.
"If in the future she is circumspect about engaging with the media and/or adopts an emollient and less confrontational attitude to it, I think that the negative interest shown towards her will indeed subside."
And he attacked Miss Mills for exaggerating how much money she needs to live:
"These items in her budget which I have touched upon above, illustrate generally speaking, how unreasonable (even generously interpreted) are the claimed needs of the wife. In the absence of any sensible proposal by the wife as to her income needs I must do the best I can on the material I have.
"If the wife feels aggrieved about what I propose she only has herself to blame. If, as she has done, a litigant flagrantly over-eggs the pudding and thus deprives the court of any sensible assistance, then he or she is likely to find that the court takes a robust view and drastically prunes the proposed budget."
The judge decided not to consider claims by both parties that the other had been behind media smear campaigns, including claims by Sir Paul that she had bugged his telephone and leaked the tape to a national newspaper:
"Both the wife and the husband accuse each other of conducting a campaign of harassment and vilification. The reality is that if I let the husband deploy a case about bugging telephones together with subsequent release of them to the press, this will open up a can of worms and the litigation may inevitably snowball with claim and counter claim."
He went on:
"I do not think that the alleged behaviour of the wife is going to assist me to arrive at a fair judgment for an award of financial provision."
"I regret to say that I strongly suspect that the motives of both wife and husband in trying to introduce the conduct of each other into these financial relief proceedings has got far more to do with the impending libel trials than the instant proceedings."
Making his final financial ruling, the judge again criticised Miss Mills for making exaggerated, unsubstantiated demands:
"If the wife considers that my adjudication to be unfairly low, then I would say this. In the end it is for the applicant in ancillary relief proceedings to make a rational and logical case for the award that is sought. If an applicant puts forward an excessive, indeed exorbitant, “claim” which then she (or he) attempts to moderate by way of open offers, but which offers still fail to be supported by rational and logical bases, then the applicant has only herself (or himself) to blame if the court awards much less than what the applicant expects.
"This case is a paradigm example of an applicant failing to put a rational and logical case and thus failing to assist the court in its quasi-inquisitorial role to reach a fair result."
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