By Finbar Markey
There’s been a con going on in our Circuit Courts for the last few years. It’s a con that the courts, the legal profession and the banks have all been in on together and the veracity of the claim that it has been a con emerged today from the High Courts and a ruling by Ms. Justice Murphy.
Over the years, in an effort at putting efficiency before the rules of the court, the banks have been applying to the Circuit Courts for possession Orders on family homes. The Circuit Court rules are clear that only matters involving less than €75,000 can be heard in the Circuit Court. Now we know most houses are still worth more than €75,000 and to circumvent the rule the banks have, with the complicity of court Registrar’s and the legal industry, been allowing family home possession applications into the Circuit Courts claiming that the rateable value of the property is within the rules as, they claim, the rateable value of the property is under €253 odd. Today’s ruling by Ms. Justice Murphy simply blows the rateable value argument out of the water.
A home does not have a rateable value and has not had a rateable value since the early 1970s. Activists have been arguing this around the country but their arguments have been falling on deaf ears until now. Today in the High Court a jubilant appellant, appealing an Order of Possession on her home from the Circuit Court, and with the advice, support and backing of the Hub-Ireland, broke the mould. In her judgement Ms. Justice Murphy said…
“The Plaintiff maintained that it had invoked and was entitled to the provisions of the valuation act and a letter issued by the Valuations office was sufficient: both these assertions are manifestly unfounded on the evidence…….it appears to the Court on Evidence that the Plaintiff have devised and used an ad hoc non-statutory process which is devoid of legal effect, for the purpose of persuading the Circuit Court that it has jurisdiction which it does not in fact enjoy”.
So what are the implications of today’s ruling? Firstly, we can expect that banks will be left with no choice but to withdraw their current applications in the Circuit Courts for possession of family homes. If you are in court over the next while demand a strike out. If an Order has been made on your home, it can be considered null and void and as having never existed. Contact your local Sheriff over the next few days and ask what the ruling means for you, meanwhile the various anti-eviction groups around the country will be forwarding the judgement to all Registrar’s and Sheriff’s and requesting their current position in light of the ruling.
We in the National Land League and other groups are not naïve however and we know that it will be the impulse and attitude of the banks, their legal partners and indeed the courts to press on regardless. We must not allow this to happen and the ruling by Ms. Justice Murphy must be enforced primarily by all of the lay-litigants across the country that up until now have been trampled upon.
On a final note, if you are made aware of any attempts to circumvent this ruling within the courts please contact the National Land League, the Hub-Ireland and other groups to let us know. We expect arguments to be made by “the other side” that they are using the Poor Law Valuation (Griffith’s valuation) to enter the Circuit Court. This has been tried before. The PLV was deemed unconstitutional by the High Court in 1981 and this was upheld on Appeal to the Supreme Court. Once more, congratulations to The Hub-Ireland on a ground-shaking result today.