Lawyers advise against use of groups claiming 'secret formula' to circumvent law

Over 100 cases of Freemen-on-the-Land arguments used in Irish courts this year

Borrowers in financial difficulty have been warned to stay away from organisations that claim to give legal advice with no legal training.

The Law Society of Ireland and barristers working in the area of debt have advised borrowers in trouble to stay away from groups that claim to have “a secret formula” for circumventing Irish law based on “false imaginings of what the law might be”.

There has been a growth in groups and organisations aimed at helping people in debt to hold on to their homes or businesses. And while most include legal advice from people with legal training, some claim to be able to circumvent the legal system in Ireland.

Name as trademark
Among the philosophies that have sprung up in recent years is that espoused by Freemen on the Land, a movement with origins in America. Freemen believe all statute law is contractual, and only applies if an individual consents to be governed by it. In Ireland, freemen give advice via the website Advice includes that in court a person should not obey any orders or follow requests because if they do they have "granted jurisdiction". They claim their name is a trademark, separate from who they are, a "flesh and blood" person.


Refusal to answer
In court, a proponent will refuse to answer to his or her name and refer to himself as, for example, John of the Ancient Clan of O'Brien, agent for John O'Brien. If corresponded with by groups such as local authorities or court officials, freemen will claim they have no contract with the authority and will charge for further correspondence.

According to barrister Keith Rooney, who wrote about the subject for the Law Society Gazette , there have been more than 100 cases in the last 12 months in Irish courts in which individuals have used versions of freemen arguments.

“These guys are liable to get a lot of vulnerable people into trouble,” he said.

Earlier this week, Francis Cullen, a businessman from Clonard, Co Wexford, who was adjudicated a bankrupt in July 2011, was returned to Mountjoy Prison after telling High Court judge Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne he didn't recognise her authority. He referred to himself as Francis of the Clan Cullen and, according to the court's official who deals with bankruptcy cases, Chris Lehane, every time he corresponded with Mr Cullen he received a bill "to be paid in gold" for "using his name". He had been in prison for contempt of court since February.

Ken Murphy, of the Law Society of Ireland, said the society would advise anyone in financial difficulty to get advice from someone who is trained in and knowledgeable about the law as set down in the Constitution and by the Oireachtas and the courts.

“One hears some strange interpretation of what the law might be; what every citizen needs to be aware of is the law as it actually is,” he said.

Barrister Andrew Robinson, who has defended homeowners in the High Court, said of the freemen: “To hold yourself out as knowing some kind of secret formula and something about the legal system and then to take a vulnerable person who is facing losing their home or getting a judgment against them and to purport to tell them how they can conduct themselves in court is an appalling thing.”

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist