No appeal for electrician who turned home into fortress after divorce

Crown Court and County Court in Oxford.

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A husband who barricaded himself inside the marital home and refused to leave after his wife issued divorce proceedings has failed in an Appeal Court challenge to an order committing him to prison.

Electrician Gary Barnett, aged 54, changed the locks on his former matrimonial home in Bridgwater and refused to leave after his then wife, Christine, told him she wanted to end their 14 years of marriage.

In March last year a decree nisi was granted – a move which Mr Barnett unsuccessfully applied to have rescinded – and, as ancillary relief proceedings began to thrash out the financial side of the split, he turned his home, in which he was by then living alone, into a fortress.

In July last year, a decree absolute was granted, ending the marriage, along with an enforcement notice – obliging him to leave the cottage and hand over the keys to the house to his wife’s solicitors – by a judge at Taunton County Court.

A penal notice attached to the order warned him of the consequences of failing to comply.

After several more court hearings, Mr Barnett had still not obeyed the court, instead declaring he had no intention of leaving the house, and an order committing him to prison for 14 days for contempt of court and non-compliance was made on August 26.

He was arrested and brought before the court the following month, before being sent to serve out his sentence.

Despite having served his term for imprisonment, Mr Barnett asked top judges at London’s Civil Appeal Court to overturn the committal order.

Mr Barnett told the nation’s top family judge – President of the Family Division, Sir Mark Potter – and Lord Justice Lloyd he felt he had not been given a fair chance to put his case at the county court.

Refusing him permission to appeal, however, Sir Mark said: “It is of course by now far too late for any decision of this court to be of any practical use to Mr Barnett in alleviating the sentence of imprisonment which he has already served.

“We don’t see any fault in the procedure followed and the sentence ordered in face of a declaration of open defiance on his part to the court’s orders.

“The general complaint is that he has lost his liberty, and his home, because of lies, perjury and the fraud of others. He says the judge gave him no opportunity to defend his position.

“But he had an obligation to comply with the orders of the court and, in these circumstances, I would dismiss Mr Barnett’s application,” the judge concluded

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