Woman receives get after more than 20 years on eve of court hearing

Rivkah Abayahoudayan had launched private prosecution against her husband


A London man who denied his wife a get for more than 20 years finally gave it to her last week, days before he was due to appear in court charged with coercive and controlling behaviour. 

Rivkah Abayahoudayan finally received her religious divorce after the London Beth Din convened a special meeting on Thursday - when usually it would have been closed for the intermediate days of Pesach. 

Last year Mrs Abayahoudayan launched a private prosecution against her former husband, John Abayahoudayan, from whom she had been divorced under civil law in 2002, under the 2015 Act against coercive or controlling behaviour.

The charge cited the use or threat of violence against her on at least two or more occasions, exercising unreasonable financial control and preventing a get. 

At Harrow Crown Court on Monday, Judge Justin Cole formally recorded a non-guilty verdict when the prosecution said it was offering no evidence following the granting of the get. 

Leading prosecution for the counsel Anthony Metzer QC said, “The decision not to pursue the case was not taken lightly as there was still sufficient evidence to proceed to a trial.  

“Where a get is given however, we will always review a case and decide whether a prosecution is in the wider public interest.  

“In this case, its provision, following the involvement of the defence team including leading and junior counsel, after well over two decades, was a significant development. It is entirely possible that a get could be given, and the case could still proceed to trial as the religious and criminal processes are entirely distinct.” 

Mr Abayahoudayan, whose grey hair was long and dishevelled, was brought into court in a wheelchair, clutching a crutch. He was wearing shades which the judge asked him to remove to identity himself. 

The court had been due to decide whether the case could be brought under the 2015 legislation since the Abayahoudayans no longer lived together. 

In the 15-minute hearing, Judge Cole indicated there would have been enough grounds to proceed to a jury trial and ruled that Mrs Abayahoudayan would be able to recover her costs for the prosecution from central funds. 

It was “very sad” the case had come to the criminal court, he remarked. 

Junior counsel Adam Gersch said, “This is an excellent result for the victim. While there was evidence to proceed to a full trial, it was right to reconsider the position when the defendant finally agreed to give a get.  

“This was an excellent example of the Beth Din and legal system working together to ensure that women are not abused and abandoned when a get is refused. Abusers, get refusers and those who assist them should know that they are not beyond the reach of the criminal law.” 

In 2015, the London Beth Din took the unusual step of issuing a public notice that United Synagogues should refuse entry to Mr Abayahoudayan for denying his wife a get for 15 years. 

Two years ago Mr Metzer, Mr Gersch and solicitor Gary Lesin-Davis became the first legal team to use the 2015 legislation on behalf of an agunah, a woman denied a get. The man in that case decided to give a get before the criminal case came to trial.

READ MORE: Shun husband refusing his wife a get, London Beth Din tells shuls

Coercive control prosecution 'new and powerful' weapon for women denied gittin

Jailed businessman was not get refuser, beth din said

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