On the 13th July, 2009 Peter Connolly Solicitors were given leave to take judicial review proceedings to quash a District Court order for imprisonment resulting out of a case where a client of the firm, who had defaulted in payment of his rent was then taken to the District Court by the Private Residential Tenancies Board using the criminal law as a method of trying to enforce the debt owed. The client who had extensive financial and medical problems was not present when the order committing him to prison was made and the Judge had a discretion under the relevant legislation where he or she was satisfiednot to jail somebody if they had no money. Many commentators would believe it is objectionable to use the criminal law to stigmatise people who are down on their luck in these recessionary times.
Many international legal conventions state that is contrary to human rights to jail people for failing to honour their contractual debts but the Irish Courts have had to apply our existing and outdated laws.
The recent High Court case of Caroline McCann -v- Attorney General & Monaghan Credit Union dated the 18th of June, 2009 has found that Section 6 of the Enforcement of Court Orders Act, of 1940 is unconstitutional so the law in this area will need to be changed.
The immediate result is that hundreds of people who have committal orders made against them under this provision may now have grounds to challenge the making of those orders putting them in jail for not paying their debts. The effect of taking a case will not make the debt go away but it will remove the stress of a having to go to jail. The appropriate way of going about such a case is by way of judicial review and the person must act promptly, as judicial review is a discretionary relief.