Weston-super-Mare has been 'wrongly tarred' as divorce hotspot
It might have produced the thrice-divorced comedian John Cleese, but the seaside town of Weston-super-Mare has been “wrongly tarred” as Britain’s worst hotspot for marital break-ups.
Earlier this week, the Ministry of Justice revealed that as well as donkey rides, a two-mile wide mud beach and a pier, Weston had more divorces per head of population than anywhere else in Britain.
The Government’s statistics showed that 2,437 divorces – hopefully from 4,874 people – were handled by Weston’s county court, which is a surprising figure for a town of just 80,000 inhabitants.
Only Birmingham, with 2,799 divorces from a population of a couple of million, had more divorces than Weston-super-Mare, but yesterday it emerged that there is not anything particularly different about the water in Weston.
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For the county court there happens to be where divorce petitions are processed for a Swindon-based internet divorce firm called Divorce-Online, and so Weston was wrongly named as the location for the booming trend for divorcing using forms and legal experts online, rather than from a law firm in the High Street.
In fact, the inhabitants of Weston are far more like Jeffrey and Mary Archer – the Lord and Lady of Weston-super-Mare – who are still very much together despite Lord Archer’s fall from grace and imprisonment for perjury for lying about sleeping with a prostitute, than like four-times married John Cleese.
Only 8 per cent of the divorces in Weston-super-Mare, less than 200, have not originated from Divorce-Online, Mark Keenan, the firm’s managing director, said.
“Weston-super-Mare has been wrongly tarred, incorrectly branded a divorce hotspot by the Government, and we just wanted to say that it’s not – this figure has come from us,” he said.
“Weston has decent fish and chips, a lovely prom, a nice beach and a great pier to have a bit of fun on, and it shouldn’t be labelled like this. The Ministry of Justice should know this, because the reason we process all the divorces we do at Weston is because they started a pilot scheme three years ago for us to use the court there.
“Funnily enough, before that, when we first started, Swindon became known as the divorce capital of Britain, because we processed the divorces there. Then they said their court was too busy and couldn’t handle the numbers, so we were sent to Weston. We don’t want to skew the figures, but we wanted to flag up that there are not thousands of people in Weston getting divorced every year,” he added.
The rate of divorce at Weston’s county court runs at around ten every working day of the year which, if it were solely from the town’s own population, would mean that within a decade or so, every single marriage in the town would have failed.