Tuesday 6 December 2016

'Fittest Family' ordered to hand over their farm

High Court ruling in bank receivers' bid over €2.4m loan debt

Aodhan O'Faolain

Published 12/08/2016 | 09:45

TV FAME: From left, Richard, Jessica, Peter and Luke Kingston on ‘Ireland’s Fittest Family’ where they scooped €15,000. Photo: Gerard McCarthy
TV FAME: From left, Richard, Jessica, Peter and Luke Kingston on ‘Ireland’s Fittest Family’ where they scooped €15,000. Photo: Gerard McCarthy

A HIGH Court judge has granted temporary High Court injunctions compelling former winners of "Ireland's Fittest Family" on RTE to hand over possession of their Co Cork farm to bank appointed receivers.

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The orders were made against Mr Peter Kingston, his wife Mrs Tracey Kingston, and their son Richard Kingston in respect of their 170 acre farm at Nohoval, Co Cork.

The orders, granted on an ex-parte basis by Mr Justice David Keane, require the Kingstons to hand over possession of the farmland to the receivers, prevent them from interfering  with the receiver's work and prevents them from having any cattle on the lands.

The interim injunctions were sought by Kieran Wallace and David Swinburne of KPMG.  They were appointed receivers by ACC Bank over the Kingstons’ farmland last September and took possession in December.

James Doherty SC for the joint receivers told the court that in recent days the Kingstons had unlawfully re-taken possession of the farmland. This was something they were not entitled to do and there was "no basis" for their actions, counsel said. 

They were now trespassers, counsel added.  There was also a concern the Kingstons would also put cattle onto the land, counsel said adding that such a measure had been "threatened."

Counsel said the receivers were appointed by ACC Loan Management Limited, which is owed €2.4m by Peter and Tracey Kingston, arising out of two mortgage agreements the parties had entered into in 2007 and 2008.   The land was put up as security for the mortgages.

After a demand for repayment was not satisfied, ACC secured a High Court judgment against the couple.  After possession was secured counsel said the farm and the cattle were found to be in a poor state.

The receivers, after going to considerable expense, rectified the problems.  The Kingstons had not challenged the receivers appointment in the courts, but had in recent days re-entered and taken back possession of the farm.

The Kingstons, counsel said, had "taken the law into their own hands." Counsel said in correspondence following the repossession the Kingstons threatened to bring private criminal prosecutions against ACC and the receivers if they brought injunction proceedings against the family.

While a promise of undertakings to hand over possession, promised by a third party purporting to represent the Kingstons, had been made to the receivers’ solicitors, none had been forthcoming, counsel said.

After considering the matter Mr Justice Keane said he was satisfied from the evidence put before the court to make the orders sought. The Judge adjourned the matter to Tuesday of next week.

The Kingstons’ farm was at the centre of separate but related High Court proceedings earlier this year.

Last April Cork County Sheriff Sinead McNamara, who was in the process of selling the Kingstons’ herd of 1000 cattle, secured injunctions against businessman Jerry Beades and his New Land League group.

It was claimed Mr Beades and members of his group had engaged in protest over the proposed sale.  The Sheriff sought and was granted an injunction by the High Court preventing anyone interfering with the auction.

It was claimed Mr Beades and members of his group turned up outside the farm and the Sheriff said this led to considerable disruption due to interaction between the protesters and those attempting to go into the auction. Mr Beades opposed the application and denied any wrongdoing.  The Kingstons were not parties to that action.  

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