Woman jailed over failure to comply with orders obtained by bank over the repossession of her home is freed on bail
Published 10/12/2015 | 20:17
A WOMAN jailed for contempt of a court order directing she hand over possession of her home to a bank has been freed by the High Court on bail.
Claire Knowles (56) was jailed by a Cork Circuit Cork judge on Tuesday over failure to comply with orders obtained by Bank of Ireland over the repossession of her home at The Pines, Castlejayne Woods, Glamire, Co Cork.
She was brought to Limerick Prison where she was held until this afternoon when she was brought before the High Court for an application that she be released on grounds that her detention was unlawful under Article 40 of the Constitution.
The application had been brought on her behalf by anti-eviction campaigner Ben Gilroy who said he had assisted her in previous court cases relating to the repossession.
Following a hearing, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys ordered her release on her own bail of €100, with a condition she stay away from her home, pending full determination of her legal challenge.
She is to come back to court next Monday.
The judge ruled the governor of Limerick Prison was obliged to go behind the reasons for her detention.
To do that, the governor would have to apply to make Bank of Ireland a notice party in this case and he was adjourning the matter to allow this to occur. In the meantime, he was granting bail to Ms Knowles who was supported in court by a large number of people.
Earlier, Remy Farrell, for the prison governor, said his client had no relationship legal or otherwise with the Bank of Ireland.
He could not compel witnesses to attend court or provide documentation in order to justify the reasons for committing her to prison, counsel said.
It was therefore impossible for the prison governor to stand over or justify any alleged defect or invalidity of the order detaining her. The application should therefore be refused or else the bank should be joined to the case as notice party, he said.
Mr Justice Humphreys also ruled Mr Gilroy was entitled to bring the application but once Ms Knowles had been brought to court, only she could argue the case.
Mr Gilroy, backed by another anti-eviction campaigner Gerry Beades, said the person who makes applications such as this had been allowed make the case on behalf of the detainee in a number of recent cases.
Ms Knowles told the court she was too traumatised to make the case because she had been in Limerick Prison and wanted Mr Gilroy to do it for her.
Mr Gilroy said on grounds of right to a fair trial, the fact that he (Gilroy) was familiar with the facts grounding the application to court and so that Ms Knowles would have "equality of arms", he should be permitted to make the case.
Mr Farrell, for the governor, said he had no objection to Mr Gilroy making the case.
The judge ruled however it was established case law that only the person detained could make the arguments before the court or else they could employ a qualified lawyer to do so.
He offered Ms Knowles the opportunity to get a lawyer or to compose herself enough to present her case, assisted by Mr Gilroy.
Ms Knowles said, following an adjournment to allow the judge consider the law on representation in such cases, she was now a little more composed and would present it herself.