News Courts

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Judge's mortgage is dragged into couple's fight against bankruptcy

Dearbhail McDonald, Aodhan O'Faolain and Ray Managh

A SENIOR judge reacted angrily when details of his financial affairs were revealed in open court as part of an 11th-hour bid by solicitor Brian O'Donnell and his psychiatrist wife Mary Pat to fight bankruptcy.

In a bizarre twist to the long- running saga involving the high-profile couple, High Court Judge Mr Justice Peter Charleton was accused of "objective bias" by a brother-in-law of Mr O'Donnell.

Rory O'Beirn, a brother of Mary Pat O'Donnell, yesterday claimed the judge was biased when considering Bank of Ireland's application to have the couple adjudicated as bankrupts.

The couple, who lost a stay (postponement) against their bankruptcy order, are now set for a Supreme Court appeal amid claims that Judge Charleton's failure to disclose he had a home loan with BOI was a "cause for concern".

The Irish Independent has learned that a land registry search was carried out on Judge Charleton, who is married with three children, in advance of his private details being disclosed in open court.

Details of the judge's financial affairs were revealed yesterday by Rory O'Beirn, who told the judge that certain matters in relation to the case needed to be clarified. He said these matters had been put in correspondence sent to the judge, including details that somebody with the judge's name had a mortgage with BOI.

Mr O'Beirn said there was a concern that the judge had shown "objective bias" towards the O'Donnells, who were seeking to the have his decision, to adjudicate them bankrupt, deemed a mistrial.

The disclosure prompted an angry response from the judge, who told Mr O'Beirn that both his privacy and constitutional rights had been breached.

"Yes I have a bank account and a mortgage with Bank of Ireland on my home," said Judge Charleton, adding that the application to have his ruling set aside simply because he did his family banking with BOI was "frankly absurd".

Last night, Mr and Mrs O'Donnell issued a statement saying they disagreed with the bankruptcy ruling and would appeal to the Supreme Court.

The couple said that, in their opinion, the refusal of the judge to recuse himself "in these circumstances" gave understandable cause for concern.

The couple said they we re disappointed that Judge Charleton "did not reveal that he owes money to the Bank of Ireland before hearing the case".

Judge Charleton strongly rejected any suggestion his banking arrangements had in any way influenced his decision to adjudicate the O'Donnell's bankrupt and dismissed the O'Donnells' application for a mistrial.

Judge Charleton said he did not have, as Mr O'Beirn had suggested, multiple mortgages "like some property developer" with BOI. He added that he did not have shares in BOI.

Judge Charleton said that just because he dealt with BOI "at arm's length in matters of family commerce" was not a ground that a mistrial had occurred.


BOI had applied to have the couple declared bankrupt after they failed to satisfy a judgment for €71.57m obtained against them by the bank in December 2011 after they had failed to repay loans to the bank.

The judge also refused to put a stay on his decision adjudicating the O'Donnells as bankrupts.

Judge Charleton said he was now finished with the matter and if the O'Donnells wanted to, they could appeal his decision to the Supreme Court.

Irish Independent

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