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It's what we thought: you can't trust some lawyers

DO solicitors lie? The Master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan, clearly thinks they do.

In a judgment delivered last week, he stated that, of all those who swear affidavits in the court, solicitors were the group "most frequently found to have only a nodding acquaintance with the truth".

Cutting through the usual legal rhetoric, he baldly stated that solicitors' sworn statements were "not generally reliable" and that some had "debased" the concept of the affidavit and oath.







Debts

Barristers also got a lash of the gavel -- with Honohan stating that judges could not rely on banks' counsel to give an assessment of debtors' debts.

He was speaking about 'fast-track' court procedures, which allow banks and other creditors to get judgments against debtors unable to pay solicitors, or represent themselves.

The procedures breach a person's right to a fair hearing, he believes.

He also points out that a defendant often has just "one chance" to mount a defence against the affidavits, in a "surreal world" of a crowded and confusing courtroom on a Monday morning.

Solicitors have, predictably, got their writs in a twist, shouting 'objection' and denying the accusations.

The director general of the Law Society, Ken Murphy, branded them an "outrageous and utterly unjustified slur on the integrity of the entire solicitors' profession."

Mind you, the recent behaviour of some solicitors, such as runaway Michael Lynn and Ponzi schemester Thomas Byrne, has hardly increased the integrity of the profession either.

Usually spats like these barely make it beyond the walls of the Four Courts.

But fast-track debt proceedings have become, alas, all the more common in recent years.

The system may have its merits, in some instances. But those who owe money still possess rights, even if they can't afford to pay a solicitor to argue these.

The idea of banks arriving in court armed with solicitors and barristers to face down a lone individual, without representation, does not appear fair to most people.

If Mr Honohan's remarks are correct, it is not just either. Unfortunately, his warning may be too late for many people.







Intimidating

Ken Murphy states that the Master of the High Court is a not a judge and that his remarks are "unworthy of anyone involved in the administration of justice".

But if I was forced to rule on the words of a respected judicial official versus an army of faceless solicitors, I know whose version of the truth I'd believe.

Ultimately, whether lawyers lie or not this row has highlighted a longstanding truth. Without representation our courts remain a confusing and intimidating place for ordinary people.

And it suits solicitors to keep it that way.


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