Sunday 4 December 2016

Grandmother has until 7pm tomorrow to purge contempt or go to jail - judge

Tim Healy

Published 15/12/2015 | 17:15

Claire Knowles outside the High Court. Photo: Collins Court
Claire Knowles outside the High Court. Photo: Collins Court

A JUDGE has found the jailing of a woman for contempt over her refusal to hand over possession of her home to a bank was lawful.

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Mr Justice Richard Humphreys told Claire Knowles she may remain on High Court bail he gave her last week until 7pm Wednesday (Dec 16).

If she fails to purge her contempt by then she will return to Limerick Prison, he said.

Ms Knowles was jailed by a judge at Cork Circuit Court last week for contempt of a court order of January 2014 requiring her hand over possession of her home in Co Cork, to Bank of Ireland.

She was freed on conditional bail pending the outcome of an inquiry as to the legality of her detention.

Having heard arguments by Ms Knowles and the State, Mr Justice Humphreys said he was bound by other court decisions  and, in all the circumstances, must rule the detention is lawful.

He will give a written judgment outlining his reasons for that decision at a later stage.

The contempt application was brought by solicitors representing Bank of Ireland arising from a mortgage, originally  taken out with ICS Building Society and later taken over by Bank of Ireland, on Ms Knowles home at The Pines, Castlejayne Woods, Glanmire.

An order for possession of that property was made by the Circuit Court in January 2014 and the High Court dismissed an appeal against that order in July 2014.

Attachment and committal to prison proceedings were brought last October against her for contempt over her failure to hand over possession.

On December 8, Cork Circuit Court directed her detention.

Ms Knowles was freed on conditional bail on December 10 pending the outcome of the High Court inquiry, initiated the previous day under Article 40 of the Constitution, into the lawfulness of her detention.

Mr Justice Humphreys, in his decision, commended Ms Knowles for the manner in which she presented her case but said his hands were tied by various rulings which meant he could not direct her release.

Among arguments advanced by her to support her claim her detention is invalid, she argued there was an error in the title of the committal warrant in that it was in the name of ICS when it was lawyers representing BOI who sought her committal.

In her arguments, Ms Knowles said she is being “turned into a criminal out of civil litigation” and these are “not ordinary times”.

It is understood Ms Knowles will have to go back before Cork Circuit Cork if she wants to purge her contempt.

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