Elderly couple's bankruptcy is extended by five years for 'non co-operation' 

Judge said couple, now in their 80s, were granted a mortgage in 1988 and 33 years later had still not discharged their liabilities
Elderly couple's bankruptcy is extended by five years for 'non co-operation' 

Aged in their 80s, the couple were adjudicated bankrupts on November 18, 2019, on the petition of Danske Bank.

An elderly couple have had their bankruptcy extended by five years over failure to co-operate with the trustee administering their bankruptcy.

Mr Justice Richard Humphreys extended to November 5, 2025, the bankruptcy of Michael Grimes, an experienced personal litigant, and his wife Carmel Grimes, neither of whom participated in the hearing of the extension application.

In judgments this week, Mr Justice Humphreys set out his reasons for his decision of January 25 last to grant the extension application, following a hearing the same day.

Aged in their 80s, the couple were adjudicated bankrupts on November 18, 2019 on the petition of Danske Bank.

They were due to exit bankruptcy after the statutory one-year period but their bankruptcy was extended on an interim basis pending the full hearing of the extension application, brought by Derek Ryan, then Deputy Official Assignee in bankruptcy, now the Official Assignee (OA).

Failed to meet repayments

The adjudication arose from failure to repay a summary judgment order obtained in 2016 by Danske after the couple failed to meet repayments on a loan made to them by National Irish Bank in 2001, later transferred to Danske.

Mr Justice Humphreys said the couple had been granted a mortgage in 1988 over a dwelling at Kells, Co Kerry, to Northern Bank (Ireland) Ltd and, some 33 years later, had still not discharged their liabilities to Danske, Northern’s successor in title.

In extending their bankruptcy period to November 5, 2025, being six years from the date of their adjudication (the statutory one-year period plus the five-year extension), he said there had been non-cooperation by both bankrupts, a failure to deliver a statement of affairs and “complete non-disclosure” contrary to their legal obligations.

A five-year extension seems appropriate, “if not relatively modest”, but he did not have to consider whether a longer period was required because five years was the period sought.

He said section 85A(5) of the Bankruptcy Act might be considered “unduly inflexible” because its “rather questionable” provisions prevent an extended period of bankruptcy being further extended even for “serious and ongoing” non-cooperation.

While that seems to incentivise obstruction and “does not immediately strike one as properly balanced with the legal, constitutional and ECHR [European Convention of Human Rights] rights of creditors, “further consideration of that point will have to await another day”, he said.

Remote hearing

He said neither of the bankrupts participated in the remote hearing of the extension application last month but Mr Grimes, in a lengthy email to the court, set out applications he wished to make, including for an adjournment and “free legal aid”.

No basis was set out for an adjournment and Mr Grimes had done nothing the court could see to progress any “genuine” application for legal aid, he said.

Nor had Mr Grimes established a factual premise for his claim that remote hearings are “unconstitutional, null, void and of no legal effect”, he said. Mr Grimes was quite prepared to sit at a computer typing out emails about why he did not want to attend but was “unwilling to click on a single link that would have brought him into the virtual courtroom”, the judge added.

A claim by Mr Grimes of being “under sedation” when the case was listed last month for him to show cause against the adjudication in bankruptcy merely highlights the “mutating nature” of his adjournment applications, the judge said. The claim of sedation was not backed up by a medical certificate, either then or now.

Mr Grimes, he further held, had made out no grounds for the court to set aside the High Court’s 2019 adjudication of the couple as bankrupts. He made that finding, having ruled no basis had been advanced to further adjourn the hearing of the set aside applications.

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