Freezing orders sought for accounts of solicitor Declan O’Callaghan

Law Society tells High Court deficit in Co Roscommon practice may exceed €730,000

A file image of Declan O Callaghan, of Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, leaving the Four Courts. Photograph: Collins Courts.

A file image of Declan O Callaghan, of Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, leaving the Four Courts. Photograph: Collins Courts.

 

The Law Society will apply on Friday for court orders freezing the personal accounts of suspended solicitor Declan O’Callaghan as well as the accounts of a practice in Co Roscommon that he previously operated.

The society is concerned that the client account deficit linked to the Kilraine O’Callaghan practice at Pound Street, Ballaghderreen may now exceed €730,000.

It believes there is a “clear and present danger” to clients and the public if the practice continues to operate with such a deficit, the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, noted.

The situation had become “even more serious” and he would permit the society to serve short notice of its application, returnable to Friday, for the account freezing and other orders, including to deliver up the books, files and accounts of the practice.

The society considered the orders necessary to protect clients of the firm, the public and the integrity of the solicitors’ profession, he noted.

The firm had been trading with this growing deficit for the past five months and the society considered it could not allow this situation continue.

Nessa Bird BL, for the society, said it also wanted to join Mr O’Callaghan’s daughters, solicitors Aoife and Eimear O’Callaghan, in their capacity as principals of the practice, as co-respondents to the application.

Counsel stressed there is no dishonesty alleged against either Aoife or Eimear O’Callaghan and the society wanted to join them as co-respondents only because, since his suspension, they have become principals of the practice.

Dishonesty

The society is alleging dishonesty against Mr O’Callaghan but not against his daughters, she added.

Earlier, in moving her ex parte application for liberty to serve short notice of the application, Ms Bird said the case had been due before the court on December 19th but this application arose from concerns by the society’s Regulation of Practice Committee (RPC) that a deficit on the client account may be some €730,000 and not the €500,000 previously anticipated.

Mr O’Callaghan previously paid some €400,000 to address concerns in relation to two estates, including of a child whose father died in an accident, the court was told.

Ms Bird said some €609,000 would need to be lodged now to clear the deficit, plus a sum of €144,000 which Mr O’Callaghan had previously agreed to lodge but was yet to.

Counsel said the committee met last Thursday to consider the matter and Mr O’Callaghan had attended. The committee decided to direct the society to apply to the court for the freezing and other orders, she said.

Last month, Gabriel Gavigan SC, for Mr O’Callaghan, said his client had been unable to pay the €144,000 because, as a result of media reports, the relevant lender was not willing to advance that sum.

Lender

Another lender has agreed in principle to advance the funds and Mr O’Callaghan hoped he would be able to comply with the order, counsel said.

Also last month, Mr Justice Kelly observed that various matters in the Law Society investigating accountant’s report suggested the deficit may rise.

Such matters, including alleged overstating of costs concerning identified clients, will have to be addressed in the continuing investigation, the judge added.

Mr O’Callaghan agreed last July to several orders, including not to practice as a solicitor, pending the outcome of an inquiry by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal into his conduct.

He was also to pay €350,000 from his personal funds to the client account of Kilraine O’Callaghan Solicitors; to cease his involvement with that firm, and to make good any potential additional deficit after various identified client files are finalised.