Friday 24 November 2017

Surge in bankruptcy cases as minister says that debtors will not face prison

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald speaking at the launch of the Courts Service Annual report yesterday.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald speaking at the launch of the Courts Service Annual report yesterday.

Shane O'Riordan and Sarah Jane Murphy

The number of people declaring themselves bankrupt in court surged by more than 500pc last year.

New figures from the Court Service of Ireland revealed 448 people were ruled bankrupt in 2014, with just 16 on foot of applications by creditors. Some 432 were initiated by the person in debt, up 568pc since 2013.

The Chief Justice Susan Denham said the enormous increase in those in debt seeking bankruptcy was a dramatic turn of events "which indicates that people see bankruptcy as providing some protection, as may not have been the case in previous generations".

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said people who were filing personal debt cases no longer faced prison sentences under new legislation.

"That's a very important change and a very important principal," she said.

Figures showed the amount of cases taken by creditors to recover unpaid monies fell dramatically last year. There was a 27pc drop in cases before the High Court, a 43pc fall in the Circuit Court, and a 41pc decrease in the District Court, where smaller sums are sought.

Instalment orders decreased by 35pc, and only 72 committal orders were made.

"This past year may offer a high level of hope in the area of personal debt," said the Chief Justice.

"It might be said that court figures are beginning to show that we definitely have gone from boom to bust in years past - but that recovery and a more realistic, empathetic approach to personal debt is being reflected in cases coming to court and maybe in how they are being litigated."

There were also 1,063 orders for home possessions made in the Circuit Court last year, a 193pc increase on 2013. The Court Service said a pilot scheme was being rolled out that would see MABS, the Citizen Information Board, and the Insolvency Service of Ireland provide independent information and advice to people when possession matters were heard in court.

Elsewhere, the courts reported a 25pc fall in the number of motorists prosecuted for drink driving in the District Court, down to 8,477. This is despite road traffic offences accounting for 62pc of all orders made there.

At the other end of the scale there were 114 defendants brought before the Central Criminal Court, where murder, manslaughter and rape cases are dealt with.

Under family law there were 1,271 applications for separation of marriage, with more than 70pc of those issued by the wife, and there were 3,831 applications for divorce in the High Court.

There were also 3,528 applications brought before the courts for alleged domestic violence offences.

2014 facts and figures

448 people were adjudicated bankrupt. 16 bankruptcies were on foot of applications brought by creditors. 432 were initiated by those in debt themselves.

1,063 orders for possession of property made in the Circuit Court in 2014.

187 asylum-related judicial review applications.

111 cases disposed of in the Commercial List of the High Court.

11,877 orders in respect of drugs offences in the District Court.

30,194 public order offences made by the District Court.

The State obtained 21 murder convictions and 125 convictions for rape.

1,271 applications for separation. The majority of cases - over 70pc - were brought by wives.

3,831 applications for divorce, More women applied in the Circuit Court, with more men applying in the High Court. n 3,528 applications to the District Court under the domestic violence legislation.

Irish Independent

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