Kerry Cox walked out of the High Court last week £400,000 richer, but with her reputation comprehensively besmirched. She found out the hard way that when a long-term relationship breaks down, unmarried women have virtually no rights. The only way to claim property and cash you feel is yours is via a costly and humiliating court case in which your former partner can toss any garbage he likes into the public domain under the guise of "evidence".
As a matter of urgency, the Government must tackle the glaring legal anomalies which mean that, because of a decision last week in the House of Lords - primarily about the rights of those in same-sex relationships - many people, gay and straight, are unprotected by law when a partner dies or a relationship ends. This is not the time to start waffling about "quasi marriages" - the fact is that thousands and thousands of people in the UK do live together and do not want to marry. They have every right to be treated as fairly as those who think that signing a marriage register entitles you to preferential treatment in the eyes of the law. Most of the gay people I know seem to work harder at their relationships than serial monogamists like me in the straight world, and it seems unjust that in the event of death, one of them could be excluded from the hospital bedside and ejected from their home at the whim of a distant blood relative.
My views on families are well known; most relatives are grim beyond belief, not worth bothering with, and you wouldn't even send them a Christmas card if they couldn't claim a one-in-a-million genetic link via a distant cousin you've never met. I can count on the fingers of one hand the family members who have enriched my life, whereas several of my long-term relationships have been fulfilling and enjoyable. And then there's the support we get from our friends who have become the new family in the 21st century. Luckily, when my relationships have run their course, there have been no disputes over who owned what, and things have been resolved amicably. But this is most unusual - Kerry Cox discovered (at considerable cost to her sanity) that when a woman has the temerity to ask for what she thinks is hers, there is nothing more tenacious than a middle-aged man determined to hang on to every last pound.
Can you think of anyone as despicable as her former fiancé, the loathsome Lawrence Jones, tax evader and VAT non-payer? I hope that no one who has read reports of their court case would ever consider employing Mr Jones, a barrister, to act on their behalf. He referred to Ms Cox as "a slapper", suggested that she was unfaithful and had more or less offered to have sex with a whole cricket team, later withdrawing his lurid remarks - but only after they had been splashed over the pages of the press. After "forgetting" to pay any tax for 10 years, Mr Jones had also collected VAT on all his fees, even though he was not registered. This rat had the cheek to call his former fiancée a "gold digger", while it seems to me that his own behaviour was, at the very least, fraudulent. Having the cash available to pay £588,000 in back taxes, Mr Jones is surely an extremely wealthy man. Not surprisingly, he now lives in Monaco, where the tax advantages are obvious.
Ms Cox, gracious in victory, has served other women well if her case draws attention to the fact that there is no such thing as "common law" marriage. At the moment, the only winners in all this legal mess are the armies of lawyers who represent warring couples. The law needs to reflect the reality of partnerships in modern Britain, and should be framed without the involvement of the church.
The angry age
The murder of 15-year-old Kieran Rodney-Davis, stabbed to death for a mobile phone by someone his own age, is unspeakably upsetting. For a large part of my childhood, I walked up and down the street where he was killed on my way to primary school, passing the estate where Kieran lived with his mum. A friend of his had already been stabbed to death nearby in Fulham Broadway only a year ago. Like the unsolved murder of Damilola Taylor, this killing was the brutal work of a group of young people who have no moral values whatsoever. And it isn't confined to boys - recently, a group of teenage girls ran riot at a railway station in south London when an inspector had the temerity to ask for their tickets, terrorising other passengers and causing havoc. Packs of teenagers roam the streets around my home in central London, looking for places to hang out and other kids to bully. The pressure at school to conform and join a gang must be intense - and perhaps the only way to channel the aggression and energy young people possess in abundance is via sport, music, building cars and doing energetic noisy things.
During Wimbledon week we should be reflecting on the pathetic lack of sports coaching and equipment for inner-city youth. Church halls and playgrounds stand empty night after night because there are no funds to pay trained workers to run tennis or basketball teams, give music lessons or set up classes in mechanics at 4pm each day when school has ended. We have to start treating the young as a resource and not a problem, otherwise the current sense of alienation will only get worse.
Tim Henman and Wayne Rooney; two sporting icons and two sets of appalling teeth. Wayne is still only a baby, but those nasty pointed gnashers reveal a lifetime of drinking the kind of sugary muck his England captain Mr Beckham gets paid
so much money to promote. Henman's rat-like molars prove that you can just about turn a nice middle-class Englishman into a tennis player of international stature, but you will always be able to spot his place of birth by his teeth. Perhaps Tim and Wayne think it's pansy behaviour to care about your smile, but having cosmetic dentistry doesn't mean you look as if you've just stepped off the set of Will and Grace. There is, however, one look to avoid at all costs - the dazzling new David Bowie molars are so regular and straight that every time he opens his mouth I see two sets of tombstones with zero personality. And before you write in, I know I have big teeth, but at least they look well-tended!Reuse content