Rise of 550% in number of people made bankrupt last year

Courts Service Annual Report shows 200% increase in Circuit Court repossession orders

There was a dramatic increase last year in the number of people applying to make themselves bankrupt, figures from the Courts Service show.

Some 448 people were adjudicated bankrupt in 2014, up from 67 the previous year with all but 16 self-adjudications. This amounted to an increase of more than 550 per cent, according to the Courts Service Annual Report 2014.

The number of repossessions has also increased by almost 200 per cent at the Circuit Court, with 1,063 possession orders made there in 2014 compared to 363 in 2013. There was also an increase in such orders at the High Court, up from 108 to 190, though the number of applications there decreased.

Though the increase in bankruptcies is high, it does not match predictions at the time of the launch of the Insolvency Service of Ireland, in March 2013, which introduced new procedures for dealing with personal debt, including a reduction in the term of bankruptcy from 12 to three years. Expert predictions then ranged between 3,000 and 7,000 bankruptcies in the first year.


Courts Service figures also show the number of judgments for debts notified for court proceedings by creditors across all three courts dropped last year. It was down by 27 per cent at the High Court, 43 per cent at the Circuit Court and 41 per cent at the District Court.

Summonses issued for people to appear before the court to explain their debts were also down, by 34 per cent. And instalment orders, for repayment of debts, were down 35 per cent.

‘Dramatic turn’

Speaking on Monday, Chief Justice Mrs Justice Susan Denham said the enormous increase in those in debt seeking bankruptcy themselves was "a dramatic turn of events". It indicated people "now see bankruptcy as providing some protection, which may not have been the case in previous generations".

Mrs Justice Denham said the drop in judgments for debts may indicate there are less instances of debt problems “being allowed to spiral to the point that people face court”, or that people are engaging and coming to arrangements.

It might also indicate “a touch of realism on behalf of creditors”, or an upturn in the economy allowing people to start clearing personal debt.

The chief justice also announced a new information and advice service in courts for people facing home repossession. This would ensure that every time the Circuit Court sits hearing possession matters “there will be space, information and personal debt advisers present in the courthouse to engage with people about their options,” Mrs Justice Denham said.

“This information initiative may offer a welcome relief from the fear of the unknown, from the sense of isolation the person in debt must surely feel as they present themselves, perhaps for the first time ever, in court,” she said.

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs), the Citizen Information Bureau and the Courts Service are to provide the service, initially at Circuit Courts in Dublin, Cavan, Trim, Wexford, Mayo and Roscommon. It is to be rolled out nationwide in the autumn.

Mrs Justice Denham also said a plan to allow the payment of court fines at the post office will be ready to roll out by the end of the year. Courts will also be able to organise the administration of attachment orders to clear fines.

Murder convictions

The Courts Service annual report also shows there were 21 murder convictions, seven manslaughter convictions and 125 rape convictions at the High Court in 2014. The number of defendants appearing at the Special Criminal Courts was down by 50 per cent, to 15, over a two year-period.

At the Circuit Court, there was a 17 per cent increase in serious drugs offences, including supply and smuggling, and there was a 12 per cent increase in serious assaults.

More than a quarter of a million people came before the District Courts in 2014, with 62 per cent of offences road traffic related.

Drugs offences, such as possession, were down 15 per cent at the District Court, and, public order offences dropped by 45 per cent in the last three years. Juvenile crime, such as public order offences and assault in the under 18s, was also down in the three years to the end of 2014, by 33 per cent.

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist