CAN I get ‘a witness?’ Judge James McNulty asked after he respectfully declined to hear from the lawyer acting on behalf of the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).
The judge directed his comments at Skibbereen District Court to Angela McCarthy, a solicitor from Eversheds, who was acting on behalf of the RTB, an organisation that resolves disputes between landlords, tenants and third parties.
But his remarks were also directed at barrister Lorna Madden, instructed by AMOSS solicitors, who was appearing on behalf of a receiver appointed by the Bank of Scotland.
The judge said he wanted a proper explanation about what happened after Timothy Hadley of Moneyvolihane, Skibbereen – who was legally represented by solicitor Colette McCarthy – handed over an €85 fee for an appeals process that got lost in the works.
He also wanted to know why the RTB failed to correspond with Ms McCarthy of Wolfe & Co in Skibbereen – a company that has been established longer than the RTB.
Judge McNulty said that neither the lawyer for the RTB, nor the barrister, were in a position to clarify the situation.
And he told Angela McCarthy: ‘You are not competent to explain the failure. Somebody in a senior position should explain what they are doing.’
But Ms McCarthy said: ‘Even a senior person cannot explain – we are without an ability to explain it.’
Judge McNulty insisted it simply was ‘not good enough’ to send a lawyer to apologise.
‘This is a statutory body,’ he said, ‘if I was the CEO of a company, I would make it my business to find out what went wrong.
‘This mess has consequences for citizens,’ he added, ‘people who have their backs to the wall by receivers acting for big banks.
‘It’s a home, even if it were rented, and I want an explanation as to why proper correspondence was not dealt with.’
Judge McNulty, who had already heard submissions at a previous sitting, but adjourned the case for the chief executive of the RTB to attend court, suggested that the RTB had ‘misread the situation.’
And he expressed the hope that the RTB ‘won’t misjudge it a second time.’
In conclusion, he said: ‘I would like to hear a witness, not a spokesperson. If the appeal was not properly dealt with, maybe we should rewind the clock. I am not going to preside over a miscarriage of justice.’