A WINDOW-fitter and his wife who were "duped" into buying a dream campervan the seller did not own, have been told by a judge it is legally their property and cannot be touched by a bank.
The court heard that Stephen and Margaret Murtagh bought the vehicle from Barry Callaghan or O'Callaghan, who operated a vehicle-recovery and sales unit in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow.
It had transpired Mr Callaghan had bought the Ford Transit-based mobile home in a hire purchase agreement with Friends First Finance in 2007 and still owed more than €30,000 on it when he sold it to Mr Murtagh in April 2008.
They had not checked out its history after Mr Callaghan said he owned it and that there was no outstanding finance on it.
Barrister John Morrissey, counsel for the Murtaghs, said his client borrowed €30,000 from EBS Building Society and handed a draft cheque and €1,600 in cash to Mr Callaghan.
It was registered in his name in 2008, but Mr Callaghan had since gone out of business.
He said he never had dealings with Friends First and was shocked to receive a letter from the company in July 2011, claiming the campervan belonged to the firm under a business hire purchase agreement with Mr Callaghan in 2007 .
Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke told Friends First Finance Ltd it could not seize the vehicle from the Murtaghs, of Woodford Crescent, Clondalkin, Dublin.
Judge Groarke said Mr Murtagh was an entirely honest man and trusted Mr Callaghan.
He had made a €30,000 investment that he would be paying back until 2037.
He said the bank, because of an error, had delayed by two years in registering the hire purchase agreement on any car-check website.
Friends First Finance had known from November 2009 that Mr Callaghan had sold on the vehicle to Mr Murtagh but had taken no action until 2011, the court heard.
There had to be some obligation, particularly on banks, to take early steps to alert an innocent and duped individual that they would be pursuing him.
He said the court was not making any conclusion about Mr Callaghan but noted that the bank had not reported to the gardai any suspicion of criminality.