Courts making arrangements to deal with repossession cases
Security, health and safety of court users paramount, says Courts Service
Distressed mortgage holders: many courts around the country have faced protests. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Courts around the country are making their own arrangements to deal with repossession cases and ensure “safe and timely access to justice”, the Courts Service has said.
Speaking in the wake of changes to repossession case lists in Limerick, a spokesman said the “security and health and safety of court users” was paramount for the Courts Service.
Limerick Circuit Court has stopped publishing dates for home repossession hearings, as part of security measures to avoid courtroom demonstrations by anti-eviction protesters. Repossession cases that were previously heard on a single day are to be spread over various court days.
A spokesman for the Courts Service said that as court possession cases had increased in number and complexity, each court office was making its own arrangements “to best list those cases to the benefit of those involved”.
Ongoing changes to case listings was part of the remit of every local court office, he said.
“This is with a view to ensuring that there is no overcrowding and enough time for matters to be heard,” the spokesman said. “It is about ensuring a safe and timely access to justice for parties involved.”
Asked whether other courts might follow Limerick’s lead, he said the Courts Service did not discuss details regarding security arrangements in specific courts or areas, because publishing them “would negate their usefulness”.
Last July, the chief executive of the service, Brendan Ryan, said his officials were profiling upcoming cases to assess if additional gardaí should be on duty when it was feared there might be protests.
Many courts around the country have faced protests organised by groups including the National Land League, Integrity Ireland, the Anti-Eviction Taskforce and Distressed Mortgage Holders. In September, there were protests at Sligo Circuit Court and in July, there were protests at Tralee courthouse.
Limerick Circuit Court was forced to abandon repossession applications in May, when more than 100 anti-eviction protesters interrupted proceedings.
Ken Murphy, director of the Law Society, said the non-publication of lists of cases would not cause problems for solicitors. Those acting for clients would have already been notified when a case was coming up and the clients affected would be aware, he said.
“Not publishing them widely or publicly doesn’t necessarily disrupt the work of the court, but may be a measure, if deemed necessary, that could help reduce, if not prevent, these, at times, outrageous courtroom disruptions,” he said.
John McGrath, chairman of the Phoenix Project, an organisation that helps distressed borrowers, said “marching up and down and shouting and roaring” was not the way to help people.
“The people who do it probably feel there is some value in it, but I think what it does is, it makes things difficult for people that are trying to engage in a reasonable and decent fashion,” he said.
The Phoenix Project, which offers help free of charge, does not believe in engaging in protests, he said.
“Our mantra is to keep it out of the courts, because you have a better chance of getting a deal and entering into arrangements when it’s out of the courts.”