Dramatic rise in self-adjudicated bankruptcy

District Court repossessions up almost 200% in 2014, according to Courts Service report

The Chief Justice Susan Denham: said the “enormous increase” in those in debt seeking bankruptcy themselves indicated people now saw bankruptcy “as providing some protection”.  Photograph: Aidan Crawley

The Chief Justice Susan Denham: said the “enormous increase” in those in debt seeking bankruptcy themselves indicated people now saw bankruptcy “as providing some protection”. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

There was a dramatic increase last year in the number of people applying to make themselves bankrupt and a 200 per cent increase in repossessions, new figures from the Courts Service show.

Some 448 people were adjudicated bankrupt last year, and all but 16 were self-adjudications, an increase of more than 550 per cent on 2013, according to the Courts Service annual report 2014. The increase in self-bankruptcy, although less than predicted, can be attributed to changes in legislation that shortened the term from 12 to three years.

Repossessions have also increased, by almost 200 per cent at the Circuit Court, where 1,063 possession orders were made 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.

Courts Service figures also show the number of judgments for debts notified to the courts by creditors 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 down 34 per cent and instalment orders, for repayment of debts, were down 35 per cent.

At the launch of the report yesterday, the Chief Justice Ms Justice Susan Denham said the “enormous increase” in those in debt seeking bankruptcy themselves indicated people “now see bankruptcy as providing some protection, which may not have been the case in previous generations”.

She said the drop in judgments for debts may indicate fewer instances of debt problems spiralling “to the point that people face court”, or that people were 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.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said work would begin by the end of the year on new courthouses in Cork, Drogheda, Letterkenny and Limerick, with upgrades of courthouses in Mullingar, Wexford and Waterford.

The Courts Service annual report also shows that at the High Court, there were 21 murder convictions, seven manslaughter convictions and 125 rape convictions 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 related to road traffic. 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 among the under 18s, was also down in the three years to the end of 2014, by 33 per cent.