In the fallout from the Celitic Tiger years I have often wondered why we don’t call them the Celtic Dinosaur years at this stage. Many citizens find themselves locked into contracts, principally contracts for land with Banks where by they are in arrears facing repossession. The law of contract as such means that a failure to pay invariably leads to a Judgement and some sort of enforcement process, such as the appointment of a Receiver over the persons assets.
We are in the throes of a serious housing crisis and with the shortfall in supply in the rental market, people have no where to go if in breach of contract. If they refuse to vacate the proptery they face attachment for contempt of court which result in a loss of their liberty with all the fallout that brings.
Often by the time a contempt of court arises the person will be acting for themselves as they have no funds to pay for a solicitor. The legal aid board, who deal with Civil Legal Aid have inordinately long waiting lists and while a person might qualify on the basis of the means test they may fail on the merits of their case particularly if the original case was contractual and they were in breach of contract, i.e they have no defence.
People facing a contempt may qualify for legal representation under the Custody Issues scheme.
There are two types if contempt a criminal contempt such as committing an asault in the Courtroom or a Civil Contempt where say a person has been order to comply with a previous Court order to vacate a property. The law on contempt is too broad to be covered in the context of this blog post but what people do not realise is that contempt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt and fair procedures rules under or Constitution and Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Guarantee of a Fair Trial) apply.
The Judge or Tribunal is often in the unqiue position that he or she is the Judge, Prosecutor and Adjudicator on the contempt hearing.
The standard of proof is high and in addition people may well have a defence or significant mitgation to advance on any contempt hearing.If they availed of legal advice they will known where they stand.
In 15 years in practice I have seen situations where a person or lay litigant is either acting for themselves or facing the Court alone in a situation where they are in contempt and facing a jail senence or indeterminate fine.
It is a prudent decision to obtain a solicitor in such circusntances but the above scheme is not widely known and is discretionary so I hope I am being of assistance in putting it out there.
The views expressed in this blog are personal to the eriter and do not amount to legal advice. Always consult a solicitor when invloved in a Court Process of any description.
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