By Ann O'Loughlin
A woman now in her sixth week in jail over contempt of court orders directing her to leave a €1m south Dublin property subject of possession orders has denied a fund's claims she wants a "free ride" by remaining "for nothing" in a valuable property she allegedly broke into in 2014.
The woman, whose two teenage children remain in the property, was jailed by the High Court on April 27 last over contempt of possession orders granted to EBS Ltd in 2015 which were upheld on appeal but stayed to April 2017.
The property is one of six investment properties purchased by the woman’s estranged partner with loans from the EBS and his solicitors wrote to the lender in 2008 saying none of the properties was a family home.
EBS Ltd got a €9.4m judgment against the man in 2011 over default the loans, secured on the properties.
Beltany Property Finance acquired the loans last year and retained Paul McCann, previously appointed by EBS as receiver over the properties, to deal with them.
The borrower has been adjudicated bankrupt, is alleged to have been a party with the woman in breaking into some of the properties, and was described by the receiver as a "fugitive" from efforts to serve contempt proceedings on him.
Today, the three-judge Court of Appeal, comprising Mr Justice Michael Peart, Ms Justice Mary Irvine and Mr Justice Gerard Hogan, heard the woman's appeal over the contempt orders and reserved judgment to June 25.
The woman, representing herself, said she had been unable to get lawyers as she was told it would cost €60,000 to read back into 87 hearings since 2008 concerning these properties but she was assisted by businessman Jerry Beades.
Her appeal was on grounds including alleged breach of court rules governing service of proceedings and alleged breach of her human and constitutional rights.
She had obtained orders in family law proceedings including for a right of residence in the south Dublin property and, if she complied with the order to vacate, would be surrendering her family law rights, she argued.
When Ms Justice Irvine said the courts have already decided her family law rights sit behind those of the receiver, the woman said she would not consent to surrender those rights, was in "a twilight zone" and jailing her would not solve the problem.
It was "very disingenuous" of lawyers for the receiver to claim she wanted a “free ride” when she was doing her best to raise monies to pay the "vulture fund", she argued. The dispute should be resolved by mediation but the fund “refused to listen”.
Opposing the appeal, Rossa Fanning SC, for the receiver, said the woman has no entitlement to the properties and was engaging in “calculated defiance” of court orders because the “carrot” was a €1m house in south Dublin “for free”.
“She wants to steal or appropriate a €1m property and pay nothing for it.”
The woman is "far from a victim" and is trying to create a legal situation where she does not have to comply with a court order, he said. If the courts were to license such behaviour, there would be a “large queue” of similar applicants stretching down the quays to O’Connell Street.
It was accepted she had had a stay until April 2017 concerning this property and the children have written to the receiver seeking that their mother be let come home, he said.
The receiver and fund are very sensitive to the fact the children are in the property and did not want to see the woman remain in custody. However, they wanted her to accept she is bound by the 2015 possession order and to undertake to leave the property after which the receiver would transfer her belongings to a nominated address "and we can all move on".