Wednesday 12 December 2018

Suspended solicitor's account deficit 'may exceed €500,000', judge told

Solicitor Declan O’Callaghan leaving court yesterday. Photo: Collins Courts
Solicitor Declan O’Callaghan leaving court yesterday. Photo: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

The president of the High Court has said there is "nothing satisfactory at all" surrounding the situation of a suspended Co Roscommon solicitor under continuing investigation by the Law Society.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly made the comment after being told of concerns that the deficit on the client account of Declan O'Callaghan's practice in Ballaghaderreen may exceed €500,000.

He also heard that Mr O'Callaghan, who was ordered on November 5 last to pay €144,000 within 48 hours towards reducing the deficit, has not yet done so and is still seeking a loan in that sum.

Pending any such repayment, the €144,000 has to be added to an existing identified deficit of €212,000, the judge said. There were also concerns whether a further €150,000, representing a sum which a client maintained she had not received under a settlement, would have to be added on, making a total potential deficit of more than €500,000.

The court heard investigations are continuing into those and a range of issues relating to other clients of Mr O'Callaghan.

The solicitor, who had practiced at Kilrane O'Callaghan, Pound Street, Ballaghaderreen, has undertaken to discharge from personal funds whatever sum the deficit on the client account amounts to.

When the case was before the court earlier this month, Nessa Bird BL, for the Law Society, said the solicitor had lodged €395,000 to address the deficit but a cheque for €144,000 of that had bounced, due to an issue with the lender.

Ms Bird also said Brendan Steen, a solicitor appointed with Aoife O'Callaghan, also a solicitor and a daughter of Mr O'Callaghan, as a joint manager of the practice, had identified it would be necessary to repay some €212,000 to the client account on top of funds already paid.

Gabriel Gavigan SC, for Mr O'Callaghan, said his client had been unable to pay the €144,000 because, as a result of media reports, the relevant lender was not willing to advance that sum. Another lender has agreed in principle to advance the funds and Mr O'Callaghan hopes he will be able to comply with the order.

Mr O'Callaghan had said the €150,000 issue concerned a client who was being pursued by a debtor. That matter would be resolved in her favour shortly and there would not be a claim about those monies, counsel added.

Mr Gavigan said other investigations will have to be dealt with in time but the €144,000 issue, and the €150,000 claim, were the "most pressing" as of now.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Kelly said it was "very disquieting" the €144,000 was still not lodged. He said he would adjourn the matter to December 19 and directed the €144,000 be lodged.

Irish Independent

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