Supreme Court re­fuses to hear McFeely ap­peal over bank­ruptcy ex­ten­sion

The Irish Times - - Business News - MARY CAROLAN

The Supreme Court has re­fused to hear a fur­ther ap­peal by Thomas McFeely, the Pri­ory Hall de­vel­oper, over the near five-year ex­ten­sion of his bank­ruptcy.

Mr McFeely (69) was due to exit bank­ruptcy in July 2015 but will not now do so un­til March 30th, 2020.

The ex­ten­sion was granted for what the High Court de­scribed as de­lib­er­ate and per­sis­tent fail­ures to co-op­er­ate with the of­fi­cial as­signee, Chris Le­hane, in­clud­ing not dis­clos­ing his in­ter­est in 12 apart­ments in Dublin.

Rep­re­sent­ing him­self with the help of an English lawyer, Mr McFeely ap­plied to the Supreme Court for per­mis­sion to ap­peal the Court of Ap­peal’s re­jec­tion last Fe­bru­ary of his ap­peal of the ex­ten­sion.

A three-judge Supreme Court noted Mr McFeely’s core ar­gu­ment was that the ex­ten­sion de­ci­sion re­lied on ev­i­dence that was in­ad­mis­si­ble be­cause it was ob­tained as a re­sult of an unau­tho­rised and il­le­gal search by a bank­ruptcy in­spec­tor of Coal­port build­ing com­pany of­fices on Holles Street in Dublin. Mr McFeely re­signed as a di­rec­tor of Coal­port some years be­fore his bank­ruptcy.

Core point

The Supreme Court said the High Court had held that the ex­ten­sion de­ci­sion did not de­pend on that ev­i­dence. The ev­i­dence ob­tained as a re­sult of the search was “only a por­tion of a wide range of ev­i­dence” avail­able to the High Court, so even if Mr McFeely won his core point, that would not re­sult in a suc­cess­ful ap­peal and a re­ver­sal of High Court and Court of Ap­peal de­ci­sions, it ruled.

The Supreme Court also said both lower courts ap­plied “fa­mil­iar law and es­tab­lished legal prin­ci­ples” in con­clud­ing that the Coal­port search did not raise any con­sti­tu­tional is­sues. Mr McFeely had claimed he owned the free­hold of the Holles Street premises, which he leased to Coal­port, a sep­a­rate legal en­tity.

Mr Le­hane said that his agents were in­vited on to the premises by the Coal­port re­ceiver and that, as of­fi­cial as­signee, own­er­ship of the seized material was already vested in him.

The Supreme Court said the Court of Ap­peal had rea­soned that the Coal­port premises was not a res­i­dence or prop­erty of Mr McFeely him­self and no con­sti­tu­tional right had there­fore been breached by the search. The High Court had dis­cre­tion to find the ev­i­dence aris­ing from the search was ad­mis­si­ble for the bank­ruptcy-ex­ten­sion ap­pli­ca­tion.

Any rights in­vaded by the search were of Coal­port’s, and any rights in­her­ent in ma­te­ri­als found on the premises had been vested in Mr Le­hane as part of the bank­rupt’s es­tate, it said.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: COLLINS COURTS

Thomas McFeely is not due to exit bank­ruptcy un­til March 30th, 2020.

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