Businessman threatened with jail over cash row gets chance to request legal aid

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A businessman threatened with jail after being accused of not paying money he owes his ex-wife has been given a chance to apply for legal aid.

Oscar Olu Williams, 62, represented himself at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court on Thursday after his ex-wife Melanie accused him of being in contempt of court and asked a judge to commit him to prison.

He told Mrs Justice Parker that he did not have the £2,000 to £3,000 he would need to pay for a barrister to represent him at the hearing and was “waiting for money to come in from clients”.

The judge adjourned the hearing to a later date to give him a chance to apply for legal aid.

Melanie Olu Williams leaves the High Court in London (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Melanie Olu Williams leaves the High Court in London (Gareth Fuller/PA)

She said she took Ms Olu Williams’ complaints seriously.

But she said she was giving Mr Olu Williams a “respite” because she was concerned about him not having legal representation when facing the possibility of prison.

Ms Olu Williams, who lives near Epsom, Surrey, says her ex-husband has broken promises and breached judges’ orders made during a family court money fight following the breakdown of their marriage.

She had been opposed to an adjournment of Thursday’s committal hearing and thought that her ex-husband could afford lawyers.

“Mr Olu Williams is a serial defaulter,” barrister Christopher McCourt, who represented Ms Olu Williams, told Mrs Justice Parker.

“Mr Olu Williams is a highly intelligent and sophisticated businessman who has been in business for some 40 years.”

Mr McCourt said Mr Olu Williams was “manipulative, devious and obstructive”.

He said Ms Olu Williams was in “dire straits financially” because of Mr Olu Williams’ behaviour.

And he said there was evidence to show that Mr Olu Williams had thousands of pounds to spend and had earned around £100,000 last year.

But Mrs Justice Parker said she had a duty to ensure fairness and thought that she would be failing in that duty if she did not adjourn the hearing to give Mr Olu Williams a chance to find legal representation.

Little detail about the couple’s relationship emerged at the hearing. They had lived in the London area and divorce proceedings started a few years ago.

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