Monday 19 March 2018

ACC bank reps made 'outrageous' claims about solicitor

Mr Justice Gerard Hogan
Mr Justice Gerard Hogan

Tim Healy

Two bank representatives behaved inappropriately and made "outrageous" allegations in a solicitor's offices before being told to leave by gardaí, a Court of Appeal judge said.

Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said he "struggled to speak with any degree of moderation" in relation to an episode on September 28, 2012.

Two ACC Loan Management representatives demanded property deeds in the offices of Orla Cummins, who had taken over the practice of Anthony Barry & Co in Athlone in 2005.

What the men did in the office was "quite inappropriate". Allegations made to office secretaries and to gardaí concerning Ms Cummins were "simply outrageous and completely false", the judge said when dismissing an appeal by the bank.

The men arrived without an appointment after ACC's deputy head of retail wrote to Ms Cummins saying named bank officials would attend her office and ask her to hand over title deeds to two apartments.

The bank claimed she was wrongfully holding the documents and without its consent.

Before this, there had been a dispute between Ms Cummins and ACC over the manner and delay in putting a charge over those properties.

Mr Justice Hogan said the bank had a legitimate grievance about this.

However, the judge blamed the bank for the escalation of the dispute which was over a relatively minor issue, which he said could have been resolved.

The bank had in the meantime made a complaint to the Law Society.

When the two bank representatives arrived in the solicitor's office, Ms Cummins was out on other business.

One asked for the title deeds, but was informed by a secretary she had no authority to give them, the court heard.

The atmosphere became increasingly tense and unpleasant and the secretary sent a text message to Ms Cummins, after which the bank representatives were told gardaí would be called.

Mr Justice Hogan said the accounts of the incident by the office staff were not controverted by the bank.

Subsequently, Ms Cummins took defamation proceedings against ACC which the bank did not defend and later made an offer of amends, he said.

Mr Justice Hogan said "the most charitable thing" that could be said about the complaint to the Law Society about Ms Cummins was that it was "completely without substance".

Irish Independent

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