Judge accused of ‘pathetic bullying’ by estranged wife
One of the most senior family judges in England and Wales claims to have obtained an order to stop his wife speaking publicly about their marriage break-up.
However, Sir Nicholas Mostyn’s lawyers are refusing to say which court granted the order, or give any detail of its terms.
Sir Nicholas demanded his wife Lucy agree to a series of undertakings issued by his lawyers. But Lady Mostyn refused and later told friends that the attempt to silence her amounted to ‘pathetic bullying’.
Her husband, one of Britain’s best-known divorce lawyers before being appointed a judge, left her for a barrister, Elizabeth Saunders, last November. Mrs Saunders’s barrister husband Mark was shot dead by police in a siege in 2008.
Last night Sir Nicholas’s solicitor, Roger Bamber, said an order had been obtained ‘preventing information being released to the Press’. Unusually, however, he declined to show it to The Mail on Sunday or elaborate further.
On Friday, extensive inquiries by this newspaper at the Royal Courts of Justice in London failed to establish if an order had been granted. Earning up to £500 an hour, Sir Nicholas, 54, earned the nickname Mr Payout because of the large sums he won for wives.
His past clients have included Sir Paul McCartney in his divorce from Heather Mills. But friends of Lady Mostyn say the couple’s own divorce battle is now threatening to become as rancorous as the former Beatle’s.
The Mail on Sunday understands that the judge’s lawyers, Mills & Reeve, demanded six undertakings from Lady Mostyn after she raised concerns about the way the case was being handled. In particular she was aggrieved that the case had been assigned to a regional judge.
Some weeks ago she lodged the divorce petition with the Principal Registry in High Holborn, the country’s divorce headquarters, and was expecting it to be heard by a judge in London.
The Mail on Sunday understands that Mr Justice Wood, of the High Court Family Division, was originally assigned to handle the case. Yet it appears that because Sir Nicholas is acquainted with so many judges, having worked in the Family Division for so long, it was thought prudent to pass the case to a judge outside London.
After learning that it is now expected to be heard at Taunton in Somerset, Lady Mostyn told one friend last week she had been ‘stitched up by the judiciary’.
Among the undertakings demanded by her husband was not to communicate directly with him until after the divorce. Another insisted, inexplicably according to friends of Lady Mostyn, that she does not use violence.
Later, Mills & Reeve dropped five of their demands and instead presented Lady Mostyn with an ultimatum. Demanding that she reply no later than 4pm on Friday, they asked for an undertaking not to speak to the Press about the divorce until after it was finalised.
Again Lady Mostyn declined to agree. What happened next is unclear. Mr Bamber, of Mills & Reeve, refused to say when and by whom the order was granted, or even disclose anything beyond the fact that it prevented Lady Mostyn speaking to the Press.
The couple’s joint assets run into millions of pounds. They have a Grade II-listed home in Little Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, with hundreds of acres, which Lady Mostyn is concerned she may lose.
On Wednesday, she told friends: ‘I am being totally stitched up by the judiciary in having my case shunted off to Taunton. I am not getting justice at all. They can’t even trust their own judiciary to be even-handed or independent.’
In a moment of frustration, she told her husband she was going to talk to newspapers and reveal what she thought was a ‘total scandal’.
Court officials had already said that the divorce would need careful handling because of his position. His paperwork was being kept in the ‘celebrity cabinet’ at the Principal Registry – under tighter security than normal to prevent anyone from gossiping about the case.
Sian Fox, deputy court manager, said that high-profile divorce petitions were routinely kept in the cabinet. ‘It’s under lock and key with the senior Judge, Waller’s, PA,’ she said.
‘The paperwork is not on the shelf with the others. Only certain people with authority can look at it.There might be a celebrity that everyone knows about and they read the file and find some information and tell their friends and it gets out to the press and we have to have certain restrictions who can access those files.’
On Friday, emergency injunction hearings were being heard all afternoon at Court 37 at the High Court. A clerk said he had been told by the listings office that there may be an emergency injunction hearing relating to Sir Nicholas’s divorce.
He added: ‘I just heard from listings there may be a Mostyn hearing, but nothing has turned up. If he does not turn up now, he will have to get the injunction using the duty judge which is done over the phone.’
By Friday night, having failed to sign any undertaking, Lady Mostyn was left guessing as to whether an injunction had been granted.
She had told a friend in a text: ‘It was just pathetic bullying.’
The Principal Registry told The Mail on Sunday this month that Sir Nicholas’s divorce would be treated no differently from any other.
Sir Nicholas was once described as the ‘scariest barrister in Britain’. He won £5million for Melissa Miller, wife of a City fund manager after a marriage of less than three years with no children.
In 2004, England footballer Ray Parlour’s ex-wife Karen was awarded £4 million after he successfully argued she was entitled to a share of his future earnings.
The judge’s new partner is the widow of Mark Saunders who was the barrister shot dead by police during a siege in May 2008 in Markham Square, West London.
Mrs Saunders, 42, is said to have worked closely with Sir Nicholas on cases in the past.
There is no suggestion their affair began before the death of her husband, but it is thought they were seeing each other when she attended the inquest into Mr Saunders’s shooting in October.