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Courts service conducting house repossession hearings in secret 'to avoid protests'

The Courts Service in Limerick has instigated the procedure to try and stem the tide of large-scale protests at the courts.

shutterstock_226218004 Source: Shutterstock/rtbilder

EFFORTS BY THE Court Services in Limerick to try to stifle protesters interrupting hearings of banks’ applications for home repossessions – by not advertising the court publicly – have been heavily criticised by protest groups.

The Court Services in Limerick has stopped publishing the dates of applications for home repossession orders, as part of an unprecedented security measure, aimed at preventing large protests at the court.

A well-placed source in the courts service revealed the decision to stop advertising the schedule for repossession application hearings was made locally, and without the knowledge of the courts service headquarters, based in Dublin.

The Limerick court was forced to abandon repossession applications on 6 May last year when a wave of anti-eviction protesters interrupted proceedings. There were chaotic scenes inside the court when more than 100 protesters entered Court Number One and objected to the hearings.

The source also revealed how extra gardaí will be dispatched to the court during the repossession hearings.

The courts service was not available for comment.

Currently there is legislation in the works which would allow debtors in the Mortgages Court the choice to have private, in camera, hearings.

“New regime”

“The repossession court is operating under a new regime. It is not publishing the list. The list (of cases) are being broken up over several days. There is no set day for the hearings anymore. People are advised in advance, that’s the way it will continue,” the source said.

We need to try to avoid this happening again. The court should be able to deal with people with respect and people are entitled to do their business whatever side they are on.

“We have to set up a new system. There’s a bit of work to it,” they added.

27/3/2012 Anglo Irish Payments Protests Source: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

“It’s still an open court but there is no publicity, to avoid further protests and to limit the damage.”

The protesters are still open to come to court but we’re not going to tell them when it’s on. There are no fixed days for the hearings. The parties involved are advised in advance. The borrowers are told by letter from the lender and they are given the list three weeks in advance.

They added: “There is increased security. The gardaí know about that. There will be increased security going forward in line with the volume of cases listed.”

Previously, applications for home repossessions were listed on the courts services website and the court was held six times a year, on the first Friday of every second month.

No fixed date

“There is no fixed date for cases online anymore. The lists had got too big and unmanageable. The lack of publication is as much for privacy of the borrowers as to void further protests disrupting the court,” the source added.

“There will be no publication of the list to the general public, except to the borrowers, through the lenders,” they reiterated.

Brian McCarthy, spokesman for Distressed Mortgage Holders group, and the Anti Eviction Taskforce, who took part in last year’s protest, said the courts were participating in “skulduggery” by introducing the measures.

“They are trying to divide and conquer the protests. It’s outrageous. We are just trying to advise people of their rights – people who do not understand what is happening to them in these courts,” he said.

“While this makes it very difficult for us, this will not stop us protesting, not a hope.”

Superintendent Derek Smart, of Henry Street Garda Station, confirmed new secret measures had been put in place at the court for cases of home repossessions: “In light of what happened last May, we reviewed what we should do to make sure the court could do its business. We have taken appropriate measures. That’s the bottom line.”

I reviewed the courts security and I assigned appropriate resources… which will depend on the volume (of cases) before the court.

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David Raleigh

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