Businessman wins property wrangle with former lover
THE Supreme Court has ruled in favour of businessman James Stanley in a dispute with his former lover over the ownership of a property.
The three-judge court found that the property -- Brownsbarn House, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny -- was held by a company in trust for Mr Stanley, the former chairman of Bula Resources.
It follows a long-running legal row with his ex-girlfriend Mary Kieran, who is also known as Mary Crawley.
Mr Stanley and Ms Kieran, with an address at Brownsbarn House, lived together between 1983 and 1994.
Mr Stanley claimed that the property was bought in 1989 for IR£235,000 and conveyed to River Properties Ltd, a company with registered offices in the British Virgin Islands.
The Moscow-based executive also claimed that River Properties' share capital -- the money invested in a company by the shareholders -- was registered in Ms Kieran's name and held in trust for him.
Ms Kieran, a lay litigant, denied that Mr Stanley bought the house either in her name, or the company's, in trust for him.
Four years ago, High Court judge Ms Justice Mary Laffoy dismissed Mr Stanley's claim on grounds including that he had produced no documentary evidence of the legal or beneficial ownership of the shares in the company.
She also found there was a 10-year delay in registering the lands and that the amount of control he gave Ms Kieran over the property was not consistent with his claim to be the beneficial owner.
Mr Stanley appealed that ruling on grounds that Judge Laffoy erred by making inferences and findings against him that she was not entitled to make.
Mr Stanley claimed that in 2000 he asked Ms Kieran to join with him in steps to mortgage the property but that Ms Kieran refused.
The businessman also claimed that Ms Kieran intended to dispose of the property without reference to him.
In her defence, Ms Kieran claimed that he was prevented from asserting any claim on the property because she had lived with him as a common-law wife, acted as his personal assistant in business affairs and was entitled to the sole and beneficial interest in the property.
Mr Stanley sought a declaration that he was the beneficial owner of Brownsbarn House and lands.
Alternatively, he sought a declaration that Ms Kieran holds the issued share capital in the company in trust for him.
In her judgment yesterday, Ms Justice Susan Denham set aside the High Court's decision.
The judge said that Ms Justice Laffoy "had erred in setting aside the express evidence of Mr Stanley, without stating that it was not credible, by inferences which did not carry any significant weight".
The judge said that Mr Stanley gave "unchallenged evidence" that he bought the property with his own money in 1989 as a holiday home or for development, to be held by the company, raising the presumption of a trust.
She also found that Ms Kieran holds the shares of the company in trust for him and that Ms Kieran holds the property in trust for Mr Stanley.
Ms Justice Fidelma Macken and Mr Justice Liam McKeck- nie both agreed with the judgment.