Ombudsman concedes error in not considering complaint against Bank of Ireland over attempted repossession

Complaint concerned action by bank to repossess Dublin man’s family home which it subsequently withdrew

A Dublin man has successfully resolved High Court proceedings challenging the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman’s (FSPO’s) refusal to investigate a complaint he made about Bank of Ireland.

Garret Lawn, a driver from Portmarnock, in Dublin, wanted the ombudsman to open an investigation into Bank of Ireland Mortgage Bank which he claimed had wrongfully started possession proceedings against him for his family home in 2018.

In a decision issued last April, the ombudsman refused to consider the complaint. However, following a settlement of Mr Lawn’s High Court proceedings, the ombudsman has agreed to an order quashing the refusal to investigate the plaintiff’s complaint.

Mr Lawn claimed the bank was never entitled to repossession of his family home in the manner claimed. In 2019, Bank of Ireland formally withdrew that action, accepted it should not have brought it and offered Mr Lawn some €5,000 in compensation.


Mr Lawn subsequently made a complaint to the ombudsman regarding the bank’s behaviour. He claimed the bank’s conduct had caused him and his family distress, anxiety and trauma.

As part of his complaint, he alleged that the bank’s communication of the 2019 proceedings to the Irish Credit Bureau and the Central Credit Register had adversely affected his credit rating. He claimed that the bank’s actions were contrary to law, unreasonable, unjust and oppressive and were based on a mistake in law and fact.

In a decision last year, the ombudsman declined to investigate the complaint. It said it lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter because there had been other proceedings over the dispute, and it had been before a court of law.

Mr Lawn, represented by John Kennedy and David O’Brien, instructed by HG Carpendale Solicitors, brought judicial review proceedings challenging that decision. The bank was a notice party to the action.

Mr Lawn claimed the ombudsman’s decision not to hear the complaint was an error. He argued the dispute with the bank had never been before any other court or tribunal. He also argued aspects of his complaint against the bank could never have been considered by a court of law.

His lawyers sought to have the ombudsman’s decision set aside on grounds including that the ombudsman had acted outside its powers and had considered incorrect issues when declining jurisdiction to investigate the complaint.

It was also argued the ombudsman had acted unreasonably when it deemed there was an alternative means to address the conduct it had complained of. It had further failed to provide adequate reasons on how it lacked jurisdiction to hear certain aspects of the complaint.

Following talks between the sides, Ms Justice Niamh Hyland was told that the proceedings were resolved with the ombudsman consenting to an order quashing its decision not to investigate the complaint.

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