Tuesday 12 December 2017

Woman in home repossession case: there is nothing left to purge

Claire Knowles outside the High Court. Photo: Collins Court
Claire Knowles outside the High Court. Photo: Collins Court

A WOMAN jailed for contempt of a court order requiring her hand over possession of her home to a bank says as her home is now "gone", there was no longer any contempt to purge.

Claire Knowles told the High Court that given the house, at Castlejayne Woods, Glanmore, Co Cork, “is gone” she has “nothing to purge at this stage”.

Ms Knowles was freed on bail last week pending the outcome of an inquiry into the legality of her detention in Limerick prison.

On Monday, when the case returned before Mr Justice Richard Humphreys she said she was  “a mother and grandmother” who worked for “the State airline” for years, was never in prison before and was entitled to natural justice and fair procedures.

“I am not a criminal, I never did anything wrong in my life, I am forced into this position,” she said.

It was up to the banks and not the Governor of Limerick Prison to justify the legality of her detention and the State should "concede", she said.

There was an issue about the title in the warrant for her detention which was originally in the name of ICS Building Society but later amended to the Governor and Company of Bank of Ireland, she argued.

Mr Justice Humphreys told Ms Knowles the bank was not involved in this inquiry under Article 40 of the Constitution into the legality of her detention.

Although the State had applied to the court to join the relevant financial institutions, he had refused that application as it was for the State to justify the legality, he said.

The judge adjourned to Tuesday the hearing of the inquiry after Mr Farrell said he needed an adjournment to allow for production of a transcript of the digital recording of the December 8 Cork Circuit Court proceedings when she was jailed for contempt.

Ms Knowles (56), representing herself, is assisted by anti-eviction activist Ben Gilroy.  She said she is separately appealing an order for possession of her home.

The central points raised by Ms Knowles include an alleged error in the title of the warrant committing her to prison and the alleged refusal by the Circuit Court judge of her request for an adjournment for her to secure legal representation.

She said she asked two solicitors in the Circuit Court that day to represent her but they "walked away" while the presiding judge tried to call someone who also walked away.

Remy Farrell SC, for the Prison Governor, said a "legal concoction" had been come up with in this inquiry and Ms Knowles should put various matters she was setting out in court on affidavit.

If she had chosen to represent herself in the Circuit Court, she must take the consequences, he added.

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