Saturday 20 January 2018

Bank accused of perjury by Master of High Court sees case against solicitor struck out

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Tim Healy

The Master of the High Court Edmond Honohan has struck out a case brought by AIB against a solicitor over her alleged failure to comply with legal undertakings in relation to clients' mortgages with the bank.

Mr Honohan - who recently sought to have affidavits sworn by AIB officials in the case referred to the DPP for alleged perjury - said he took the view this was simply an attempt by AIB to obtain €2m in insurance compensation against a company which may or may not have provided professional cover for now struck-off solicitor Angela Farrell, who is based in Dublin. 

The attempt had however "has fallen flat on its face", he said.

AIB has since obtained an injunction  preventing the Master from referring papers in the case to the DPP.

One of the the Master's functions is to make sure papers in cases on their way to full hearing in the High Court are in order.

Yesterday, he refused an application from Niall Ó'hUiginn BL, for AIB plc and AIB Mortgage Bank, to send special summonses in the Farrell case for hearing in the High Court judges' list after counsel argued everything was in order and the matter should be transferred.

He said as he had a duty not only to ensure papers in a case are ready but that prima facie case of perjury is brought to the attention of the authorities.

"I am going to be very nice to the bank and offer them a great way out here by striking out the summonses and I think they should be very careful as to where it goes from here".

Earlier, Mr Honohan invited Mr O'hUiginn to withdraw the High Court injunction the bank had obtained against him last month preventing the referral of the matter to the DPP as well as its application that he (Master) no power under court rules to inquire into the substantive merits of affidavits before him.

When Mr O'hUiginn said his instructions were to proceed with the case, Mr Honohan said he had to now consider whether the case against Ms Farrell was now moot, or pointless, given she was no longer a solicitor and has also been declared a bankrupt.

Mr O'hUiginn said Ms Farrell was a still a solicitor when AIB issued proceedings against her and she may have insurance in place.  The bank may get the services of another solicitor to deal with the undertakings but these issues would be for a hearing in the High Court to deal with, he said.

Mr Honohan then asked Mr OhUiginn to read out the affidavits sworn by two AIB officials which he said showed prima facie evidence of perjury- a claim strongly denied by both officials and which, counsel said, was based on speculation and was improper.

As Mr O'hUiginn read affidavits  of the first official, Lynn Hogan, of AIB Financial Services, Mr Honohan said they did not comply with court rules as they did not contain Ms Hogan's "place of abode" and gardai would have difficulty finding her (for an alleged perjury investigation).  Mr O'hUiginn said there was discretion not to include a home address.

Mr Honohan also there was a clear prima facie case for perjury because Ms Hogan's first affidavit said nothing had been done by Ms Farrell in relation to six legal undertakings whereas a later affidavit stated there were only three undertakings outstanding.   

There may have been "some unseen hand" at work in the first affidavit but this was a "180 degree turn", Mr Honahan said.

Mr Honohan also complained AIB came before the court both as AIB plc and AIB Mortgage Bank which represented "multi-party litigation" and the rules of court did not allow for that, which Mr O hUiginn also disputed.

Mr Honohan said the bank had also failed to mitigate its loss and was effectively involved in "unjust enrichment" because it had not stated whether it was in a position to enforce security over the mortgages of the borrowers Ms Farrell was acting for.

In relation to affidavits sworn by the second AIB official, Jim O'Keefe, managing director of AIB Mortgage Bank, he said these also showed a prima facie case for perjury, which was also denied by counsel for AIB.

The solicitor, Ms Farrell, in asking the court to adjourn AIB's application to transfer the matter to the judges' list, said AIB's action against her was unfair and the papers in it were not ready.

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