Judge refuses to jail pensioners over failure to leave their home
A judge today refused to jail pensioners Martin and Violet Coyne, who faced going to jail for contempt of court by defying a judge’s order to have left their home by midnight last night.
Following pleas in the Circuit Civil Court by and on behalf of the Coynes, Judge Jacqueline Linnane adjourned an application to commit both of the Coynes to prison until August 27th.
The judge warned the Coynes that they were still in contempt of court orders and she told Mr Coyne he had also breached a sworn undertaking given to the court on behalf of himself and his wife that they would have been out of the house by today’s hearing.
Judge Linnane told barrister Stephen Byrne, counsel for the Receiver of assets of Daragh Ward, the house owner and the Conyes’s former landlord, that the County Sheriff could be asked to execute the court order for possession of the property.
It means, if the Sheriff acts, the Coynes could be on the roadside well before the August 27th adjourned court hearing which would still seek to commit them to prison for contempt.
Martin Coyne (71) and his wife, Violet, (61) have lived in the house in Carpenterstown, Co Dublin, for the last 15 years. Mr Ward, who had a mortgage with ACC Bank, went into Receivership in 2012 and the Receiver, Shane McCarthy, had sought possession in order to sell the house to reduce Ward’s debt to the bank.
Mr Coyne appeared in the Circuit Civil Court today with his brother-in-law Fred Molloy who spoke on his behalf. Mr Molloy said the background to the Receiver’s application had presented the Coynes with “a horror story” which had not been fully ventilated to the court prior to the Private Residential Tenancies Board having granted possession which was confirmed by Judge Linnane.
Mr Molloy said Mr Coyne was a man who sometimes did not even know his own name as he was on very heavy medication as was his wife. The couple were pleading for an adjournment so the Legal Aid Board could provide them with a legal representative to fully explain the situation to the court.
Mr Coyne himself also briefly addressed the court.
“I know I made a sworn statement I would vacate the property and I did so in good faith thinking I would get some alternative accommodation from Fingal County Council,” he said.
“I have got nothing but I have not just been sitting at home on my arse all day. I have been out there trying to get somewhere. The only thing I’m short of is money. It was never my intention to disobey the court.”
Mr Byrne, counsel for the Receiver, said the court had made Mr Coyne on all occasions fully aware of the situation and what he faced if he did not vacate the premises.
He said Mr Coyne had gone to the media about his situation and not all that had appeared had been factual.
“The court has afforded extensive indulgences in explaining the situation to Mr Coyne and the Receiver has engaged in extensive efforts to assist him getting up Fingal County Council’st housing list to get him alternative accommodation,” he said.
“This is a case of deliberate and conscious contempt of a court order and the application to commit to prison is not one the Receiver takes lightly or takes any satisfaction in,” Mr Byrne said.
Judge Linnane told Mr Coyne he had already appealed her order for possession to the High Court which had refused him a stay on her order on the basis the judge had considered there were no grounds to justify any appeal.
She said the debt owed to the bank was continuously increasing and the Receiver required vacant possession in order to sell the property in order to reduce that debt.
The judge told Mr Byrne that the Receiver had an order for possession from the court and it was the usual practice that such an order be passed for execution to the Sheriff.
She said this was what the Receiver could do and in the meantime she would adjourn the application to imprison the Coynes to August 27th to allow them obtain final word on the question of legal assistance from the Legal Aid Board.