Stubborn ex-pilot tells court 'I'm saving you money because I'm not in Durham jail'

A former helicopter pilot illegally occupying a farmhouse has said he is 'saving the state money' by refusing to leave and not being imprisoned.
Royal Courts of Justice, London.Royal Courts of Justice, London.
Royal Courts of Justice, London.

Peter Elliott has been embroiled in a legal battle with his ex-wife for four years, and is refusing to comply with an order requiring him to leave his farmhouse home.

Mr Justice Keehan issued a "warrant for committal" on August 23 after analysing the case at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

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A lawyer involved in the case said Mr Elliott would be arrested and taken to jail and the property put up for sale.

But Cumbria Police said they had not been given an arrest warrant until about a week after Mr Justice Keehan's ruling, and said Mr Elliott had yet to be detained.

Mr Elliott said on Tuesday that he was the victim of injustice, and his farmhouse had been taken from him unfairly.

"I'm imprisoned on the farm," he said. "I'm saving the state money because I am not in Durham jail."

He added: "I don't know what's going to happen next."

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About four years ago, Mr Elliott had been ordered to leave Pinewood House in Appleby, Cumbria, and hand the farmhouse and surrounding land to his ex-wife Leonie Butler so that it could be sold.

Mr Elliott has failed in bids to mount a challenge in the Court of Appeal.

Earlier this summer, another High Court judge concluded Mr Elliott had not left the property and was in contempt of court.

Mr Justice Moylan, who is also based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, had imposed a suspended six-month sentence on condition that Mr Elliott handed the property to Ms Butler as ordered.

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Mr Justice Keehan concluded Mr Elliott had not left the property and had not complied with the terms of Mr Justice Moylan's order.

Mr Elliott had been told to transfer the property to Ms Butler in 2012 - so that it could be sold and the proceeds split - after the pair fought over money following the breakdown of their relationship.

The couple used to live in Gloucester and are both believed to be in their 40s.

Neither was at the hearing before Mr Justice Keehan in London on Tuesday.

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A barrister representing Ms Butler had asked Mr Justice Keehan to order the arrest and imprisonment of Mr Elliott.

Roger Thomas said evidence showed that Mr Elliott had not complied with Mr Justice Moylan and had no intention of leaving the farmhouse.

Mr Elliott had written to Mr Justice Keehan.

He had asked for an adjournment and asked for the case be overseen by a different judge. He suggested that Mr Justice Keehan and Mr Thomas knew each other and were in cahoots.

Mr Justice Keehan dismissed his applications.

He said Mr Elliott had been ordered to attend the hearing but had chosen not to attend. He said Mr Elliott could also have obtained legal aid to pay for lawyers to represent him but had not done so.

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A Cumbria police spokeswoman said: "A warrant for Peter Elliott's arrest was received on Wednesday August 31.

"Officers are working with relevant partner organisations to resolve the situation in the most appropriate way."