Thursday 23 November 2017

Judge warns of long delays in bankruptcy cases

Justice Gerard Hogan
Justice Gerard Hogan

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

A JUDGE has warned bankrupts that there could be significant delays before their cases are finalised due to the volume going through the courts.

High Court judge Mr Justice Gerard Hogan yesterday adjourned a batch of statutory sittings, where bankrupts must formally attend court and make full disclosure of all their debts and assets, because of the "very heavy" pressures on the weekly bankruptcy list.

The warning comes as legal experts have called for extra court sittings to deal with a surge in bankruptcy cases.

The High Court has dealt with almost 200 bankruptcy motions in the past three weeks as debtors, the vast majority of whom have no formal legal representation, opt for bankruptcy.

Yesterday, Judge Hogan granted creditors nine new bankruptcy summons against debtors. Thirteen borrowers who represented themselves successfully applied to be adjudicated bankrupts, while almost 20 more debtors had their bankruptcies formally confirmed.

Judge Hogan, who told the court he was "very much a temporary stand-in in this list", thanked borrowers for attending in court.

But he warned newly adjudicated bankrupts that their statutory sittings could not be facilitated until the end of July.

"I am told, given current volumes, no dates [for statutory sittings] are available until July," he said.

Some borrowers are paying up to €6,000 to mortgage and debt advisers before they decide to opt for bankruptcy.

The official charge for bankruptcy is some €950. Bankrupts must also present a letter from a Personal Insolvency Practitioner deeming them eligible for bankruptcy, with fees for such letters fetching up to €500.

Last night, barrister Vincent P Martin of New Beginning, one of the main providers of bankruptcy services, said it had hundreds of bankruptcies pending in the courts.

New Beginning says it charges a fee of €3,500 per bankrupt, which includes mandatory court fees, VAT, solicitors' costs, as well as Junior or Senior Counsel.

"There should be extra court time because we are now seeing what we predicted," he said.

Keith Farry of the Irish Mortgage Holders' Organisation said it too was dealing with record numbers of bankruptcy applications. He supported calls for additional sittings.

"There will be a clear backlog in the system," said Mr Farry.

Irish Independent

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