Ruling on O'Donnell bankruptcy today
The high court in London will today rule on an application by property investors Brian and Patricia O’Donnell that it should overturn its own ruling last month that they be prevented from becoming bankrupt in Britain.
Presenting his own case, Mr O’Donnell frequently criticised solicitors firm Piper Smith Watton and the barrister they used during a legal battle last year with Bank of Ireland, which wants to see the O’Donnells bankrupted in Ireland.
The legal teams, he claimed, had failed to make them aware of the need to produce crucial paperwork during a six-day trial in December – a charge rejected by Bank of Ireland’s barrister Gabriel Moss QC, as “typical sour grapes of a losing client”.
In a ruling before Christmas, Mr Justice Newey rejected the O’Donnells’ bankruptcy application, saying it was clear that they had not established London as their centre of main interest – a status required for an EU citizen to go bankrupt in a state other than their own.
Appearing again before Mr Justice Newey, Mr O’Donnell made an application under section 375 of the Insolvency Act asking that the judge rescind his own ruling because of the “exceptional circumstances” of the case.
Rejecting the original application, Mr Justice Newey said he had not found Mr O’Donnell to be “wholly frank or truthful” during December’s marathon hearing, and he did not accept the O’Donnells’ claims that they had told other creditors.
However, Mr O’Donnell yesterday produced copies of letters to Anglo Irish Bank Corporation, HSBC, Ulster Bank and credit card company MBNA, notifying them of their new address in London a fortnight before they filed for bankruptcy in London last March.
Mr Moss rejected Mr O’Donnell’s production of documents, saying it should have been clear to him last year that such paperwork should have been included in their original application, without needing to be told to do so by lawyers.
In addition, he cited numerous exchanges during the December trial when it should have become plain to Mr O’Donnell, if it had not been before, that information about the notification of other creditors was required by the judge. Mr O’Donnell had produced “a self-serving document” that would have done his case very little good if it had been presented at the original trial, said Mr Moss.
A section 375 motion – where a judge reverses his original decision without the involvement of a higher appeal court - can only be granted in exceptional circumstances, but nothing Mr O’Donnell had put forward was “a game-changer”, said Mr Moss.
He and Mr O’Donnell clashed over the latter’s criticisms of Declan Byrne of Shale Construction Limited, who has a €200,000 judgment against the O’Donnells for unpaid construction work in Dublin.
The judge had found he had been a “truthful and reliable” witness, said Mr Moss, while Mr O’Donnell’s suggestions that he had not told the truth were “quite outrageous and improper”.
Insisting that “everyone in the world knew that we were living in London’, Mr O’Donnell argued that the Seán Quinn bankruptcy decision meant creditors had to inform themselves, not that they were entitled to sit back and do nothing.