Reprieve for mum jailed over home row

A High Court judge has directed an inquiry into the legality of the detention, in Limerick Prison, of a Cork mother for contempt of a Circuit Court order directing she hand over possession of her home to a bank.

Reprieve for mum jailed over home row

Ben Gilroy, of Direct Democracy Ireland, applied yesterday to Mr Justice Max Barrett for the inquiry following the imprisonment the previous day of Claire Knowles, aged 56, who lives with her son at Castlejayne, Glanmire, Cork.

Mr Gilroy said there was “huge confusion” over possession orders made by the Circuit Court, an apparent reference to conflicting High Court decisions of November and May last concerning the Circuit Court’s jurisdiction to hear certain repossession cases.

He said Ms Knowles suffered difficulties, including depression, after the possession order was made in January 2014 and the Master of the High Court later agreed to extend time for her to appeal.

Ms Knowles has no recollection of getting a letter of demand of November 2009 and there were issues about a signature on that, he added.

In an affidavit, Mr Gilroy said he is a friend of Ms Knowles. He said the warrant detaining her was invalid as it was in the name of ICS Building Society and, as far as he was aware, the Governor and Company of the Bank of Ireland had applied to the Circuit Court to reconstitute the proceedings by substituting the Governor and Company of Bank of Ireland earlier this year.

Ms Knowles is in dispute with ICS, he said. On November 10, the Master of the High Court extended time for her and her son to appeal the Circuit Court possession order of January 20, 2014. When a further extension was sought on December 2, the Master granted an additional 72 hours, he said.

Ms Knowles did serve her notice of appeal on December 2. He said the plaintiff bank in the Circuit Court proceedings appealed the Master’s order and the High Court on Monday last dismissed the appeal and affirmed the Master’s order of November 10.

He said Ms Knowles previously appeared before Judge Donagh McDonagh at the Circuit Court on October 27 who said he had no jurisdiction in the Circuit Court possession proceedings and adjourned the matter to December 8 when Ms Knowles appeared before Judge Sean O’Donnabhain.

A friend of Ms Knowles who was present had given a written account stating the judge warned Ms Knowles she was at risk of jail and should get legal representation.

She was unable to do so and was refused an adjournment to get a lawyer, the account stated. It was also stated Ms Knowles began reading from a prepared statement but was interrupted by the judge who made the committal order.

It was stated she continued to read the statement and the judge said she was in breach of the order and described her as “brazen”.

Mr Justice Barrett said he would direct an inquiry under Article 40 of the Constitution and ordered she be produced in court on Thursday morning.

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