62 solicitors in court over failure to pay debts of €92m
SOLICITORS have racked up a higher number of judgments for failure to repay borrowings than any other profession.
A total €92.4m in judgments was made against solicitors last year for the non-payment of debt, figures compiled by 'Stubbs Gazette' show – more even than builders.
This is despite the fact that they are officers of the courts.
This is more than 630pc higher than the value of the judgments issued against solicitors in 2011, figures seen by the Irish Independent show.
Experts said that many lawyers got involved in property transactions during the property bubble – deals that have since gone sour, leaving the solicitors with bills they cannot pay.
The value of judgments registered against lawyers is the highest of any job description, followed by builders and farmers.
However, James Treacy of 'Stubbs' said that having a judgment registered against a solicitor did not stop them practising law.
The solicitors' profession is self-regulated by membership organisation the Law Society.
State bad bank the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) stepped up moves to recover loans last year, pursuing solicitors doggedly, Mr Treacy said.
Figures put together by 'Stubbs Gazette' show that lawyers were the top defendants in debt cases before the district and circuit courts, even though they earn a living by defending others in court.
There were 62 judgments registered against lawyers last year with a total value of €92.4m. This compared with 64 judgments in 2011, with a total value of €12.6m.
Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society, which has 9,000 solicitor members, said solicitors who have a judgment registered against them are called before a statutory committee of the society.
At this committee, they will have to explain how they are going to repay the money.
Restrictions on how they practise can be imposed on solicitors by the committee.
He said that between seven and eight solicitors have restrictions placed on them by the society at the moment.
Mr Murphy said the main concern was to ensure that clients' funds were safe.
"We pick up these judgments and we act on them. There is a good system at work," he said.
Farmers were the next most likely to end up with a debt judgment registered against them, racking up a total of €9.3m in judgments against them in 2012. This was up from €6m in 2011. Overall, there was a fall in the number of court judgments issued against consumers last year.