THOMAS SYLVANUS WILLIAMS and ANNIE LAMITOH WILLIAMS AND ELl G. RENNER (021 )  SLSC 20 (02 June 1961);
Thomas Williams petitioned for a divorce from his wife, Annie Williams, on the grounds of desertion and adultery. The wife filed an answer in which she denied desertion and pleaded that if she had committed adultery the husband by his conduct had contributed to such adultery. She also prayed for the dissolution of the marriage on the grounds of the husband's desertion and cruelty: Held, for the wife, (1) where a wife has committed adultery, the court is not bound to grant a divorce on the husband's petition if his desertion and cruelty preceded and contributed to the adultery. (2) Even though a wife has committed adultery, the court may grant a divorce on her petition if the husband's desertion and cruelty preceded and contributed to the adultery. Case referred to: Jef]reys v. Jef]reys (1864) 164 E.R. 1366. E. Livesey Luke for the petitioner. Alfred H. C. Barlatt for the respondent and eo-respondent. BANKOLE-JoNEs J. The husband-petitioner in this suit seeks a dissolution of his marriage with his wife (respondent) on the grounds of desertion and adultery. One Eli Renner is cited as the eo-respondent. The respondent entered appearance and filed an answer in which she denies desertion and pleaded that if she committed adultery the petitioner by his conduct conduced to such adultery. She also prays for the dissolution of the said marriage on the grounds of the petitioner's desertion and cruelty. The eo-respondent entered appearance, but filed no answer and so far as he is concerned the suit is undefended.
At the end of the case counsel conceded that on the evidence the petitioner was clearly guilty of desertion and cruelty and the respondent guilty of adultery. The questions to be decided by the court are (1) which of the parties, if any, is entitled to a decree nisi, and (2) whether costs are to be awarded if at all and against whom. I find on the evidence that the acts of cruelty on the part of the petitioner and his desertion of the respondent in November 1955 long preceded the adulterous relationship between the respondent and eo-respondent. I find that long before the respondent's adultery commenced, this marriage was irrevocably broken by the petitioner's cruelty and desertion. I am satisfied that the petitioner had irrevocably arrived at the decision that he would never live with his wife again and that in the circumstances his conduct was quite unaffected when he learned of his wife's adulterous association. It is abundantly clear to me that the acts of cruelty and desertion on the part of the petitioner conduced to the wife's adultery. The petitioner constantly deprived his wife of his comfort, society and protection, all rights to which a wife is entitled. In an old case, Jeffreys v. Jefjreys, 164 E.R. at p. 1367, the learned judge stated, inter alia: " If chastity be the duty of the wife, protection is no less that of the husband. The wife has a right to the comfort and support of the husband's society, the security of his home and name . . . whoever falls short in this regard if not the author of his own misfortune, is not wholly blameless in the issue; and though he may not have justified his wife, he has so far compromised himself as to forfeit his claim for a divorce." This principle of the law is placed beyond all doubt by our own Matrimonial Causes Ordinance (No. 9 of 1949) in the proviso of section 7 (2) (d). In the circumstances, I have come to the conclusion that the petitioner must fail in his petition. The respondent succeeds in her prayer for the dissolution of the marriage and, taking everything into consideration, I make no order as to costs. I therefore order that the marriage had and solemnised between the parties on October 29, 1953, be dissolved by reason of the cruelty and desertion of the petitioner.
Divorce-Desertion--cruelty-Adultery-Dese,rtion and cruelty by husbandAdultery by wife-Whether wife or husband entitled to decree nisi-Whether costs to be awarded-Matrimonial Causes Act (Cap. 102, Laws of Sierra Leone, 1960), s. 7 (2).