A pro bono group, "New Beginning" has been set up. The group, made up of lawyers, business people and concerned citizens, was launched on 31 October 2010 with the intention of representing defendants in repossession cases as well as mounting test cases ito establish whether lending institutions owe a duty of care to borrowers, and if so whether such a duty was breached.
Co-founder of the pro bono group, Ross Martin SC wrote a piece in the Irish Times days before the group was launched, exploring the potential tort of reckless lending. He referred to the Consumer Protection Code issued by the Financial Regulator in 2006, which outlines that lenders must ensure that in all its customer dealings, "it acts honestly, fairly and professionally in the best interests of its customers and the integrity of the market; and acts with due skill, care and diligence in the best interests of its customers". This movement towards a relationship "akin to that between professional advisers and their clients" results in the question as to whether the law of negligence can be applied and whether a duty of care is owed to the borrower.
This pro bono group aims to explore such issues, with the hope that the test cases may result in the banks taking their share of the blame.
Those involved in "New Beginning" are working on a voluntary basis and call for mortgage holders in difficulty to submit their files for review. New Beginning is also calling for any professional volunteers who are willing to give time and advice to contact them.
For more information on the group please click here, or phone 01 871 9499.
Please click here to see a FLAC press release calling for homeowners' needs to be prioritised.
PILI is pleased to announce that the first European Pro Bono Award was bestowed upon Lord Andrew Phillips of Sudbury, a leader in advancing pro bono work in the UK and throughout Europe, at the fourth annual European Pro Bono Forum on 19 November. Solicitor, Life Peer and member of the upper house of parliament, Phillips seized the opportunity in accepting the award to motivate lawyers attending the Paris Forum to take on more pro bono work as part of their privileged position in society.
PILI created the European Pro Bono Award to recognize extraordinary contributions to advancing pro bono culture throughout Europe in the pursuit of justice for all. Lord Phillips founded the law firm Bates, Wells & Braithwaite, has been at the forefront in helping to ensure that more firms take on volunteer legal work to improve the lives of the less fortunate and established three national charities, including the Solicitors Pro Bono Group (now LawWorks), which provides free legal help to individuals and organizations.
For more coverage of the award ceremony and Phillips' remarks, please click here.
The Public Interest Law Institute looks forward to presenting the next European Pro Bono Award at the 2011 European Pro Bono Forum, which will be held in Berlin. For more coverage and photos from the Forum in Paris, visit PILI's Facebook page here.
The National Pro Bono Centre is to open late this summer at Chancery Lane in London. This key resource will be home to England and Wales' national clearing houses for legal pro bono work, and will provide a fundamental centre for those seeking pro bono legal advice and representation. This unique connection between the three bodies - the Bar Pro Bono Unit, the ILEX Pro Bono Forum and LawWorks (the Solicitors' Pro Bono Group) will be crucial to improving collaboration and co-ordination in the pro bono sector.
For further information on the National Pro Bono Centre, please click here.
Legal rights organisation FLAC has given a cautious welcome to the Financial Regulator's consultation paper on the code of conduct for mortgage arrears. Noting that the document is a consultation paper only, FLAC said that it incorporated many of the interim recommendations of the Expert Group on Mortgage Arrears and Personal Debt published on 6 July 2010.
FLAC said that if the proposals recommended in the consultation paper are adopted, then borrowers will have a structured process for dealing with lenders if they are in difficulty with mortgages on their family homes. It will also require lenders to engage to some extent with those who contact them in anticipation of future difficulties. As recommended by the Mortgage Expert group, lenders will have a standardised process for collection of financial information and review of decisions.
If adopted, the proposed code will prohibit lenders from initiating repossession proceedings while reasonable negotiations are ongoing, or where a borrower is adhering to the terms of revised arrangements. Lenders will have to defer court proceedings for at least 12 months from the time arrears began or 12 months from the time that any new arrangement had fallen down. As is currently the case, the code will not apply where the borrower does not engage with the lender. In those cases, the code permits lenders to seek repossession whenever they wish.
Director General of FLAC Noeline Blackwell said that if the code is implemented, it will represent a welcome advance in the protection available to borrowers in difficulty with mortgage repayments on their family homes.
"However," Ms. Blackwell continued, "the proposed resolution process lacks independent oversight. It is still one which is still very much an internal process which allows the lender to determine what is a suitable mortgage repayment package. The only external recourse will be a complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman. There is no suggestion that additional resources will be available to the Ombudsman to deal with those complaints, or any indication of what assistance will be available to borrowers who wish to bring complaints.
FLAC also said that the revised code, if enacted, is also only one step in what needs to be a much wider solution for borrowers who are often trying to cope with many debts at the same time. "Callers to our legal information line and to our network of centres are telling us that they are under pressure from many different creditors, and unable to deal with them all," Ms. Blackwell said.
As part of the consultation of the Financial Regulator, it is offering the public a rare chance to contribute its views on how financial institutions should handle mortgage arrears in future. FLAC welcomes this chance to hear the voice of borrowers who are most directly affected by the mortgage arrears crisis. Ms. Blackwell outlined how "the Regulator has asked for input from interested parties - there is no-one more interested than the members of Irish society in how mortgage arrears problems are handled".
To facilitate people in giving these vital opinions, FLAC is inviting the public to use its website to answer the questions posed by the Regulator's consultation paper. In addition, FLAC has developed some other questions which it feels will augment the consultation process, such as whether there is adequate support for homeowners in trouble or whether the Code should be legally enforceable. FLAC will then collate all responses received by 1 September and present them to the Financial Regulator by the closing date of 3 September.
"FLAC hears every day through its telephone information line and advice centres of the distress and despair felt by people in difficulty with mortgage arrears as well as other forms of debt. FLAC is seeking a holistic approach to debt which will take into account the totality of a person's debt situation," said Ms. Blackwell.
FLAC urges the public - whether affected by mortgage arrears or not - to read the Financial Regulator's proposals and comment on them. "It is vitally important that the Regulator be made aware of how the issue of mortgage arrears is affecting homeowners across the country. By making submissions, the public can, through FLAC or individually, inform the Regulator, in the hope that it will result in a more useful, effective and practical Code of Conduct," concluded Ms. Blackwell.
For more information on how to take part, please click here.
FLAC has responded to draft legislation published today by the Department of Justice & Law Reform, the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010.
It noted that the new bill proposes changes across a wide range of issues including family law, bankruptcy law and the provision of civil legal aid. FLAC is welcoming the proposed changes to the law concerning family maintenance payments. This will bring the law in this area into line with the general regulation of debt collection. According to FLAC, the bill proposes a new process whereby defaulting maintenance debtors will be brought before a judge to explain their failure to pay. FLAC said that callers to their telephone information line and their centres have noted that the gap in the legislation which currently exists is causing hardship.
Commenting on the changes, Noeline Blackwell, Director of FLAC, said that "when this new legislation is enacted, there will be a clear distinction made between those who cannot pay maintenance and those who actively choose not to. Imprisonment will be a sanction for a Judge to impose on those persons who are simply refusing to keep up maintenance payments. On the other hand, those who are experiencing economic difficulties will get a chance to explain this to a court and perhaps have existing orders varied."
While the bill contains some change to bankruptcy law, FLAC said that the small changes proposed were inadequate. According to Ms. Blackwell, "merely setting an outer limit of 20 years on the period during which a person might be bankrupt was entirely insufficient to deal with the real situations of over-indebted people in Ireland today."
Three UK pro bono organisations representing the three branches of the legal profession (Bar Pro Bono Unit, LawWorks, ILEX Pro Bono Forum) have combined to establish the National Pro Bono Centre. This is intended to provide a central resource for individuals and organisations seeking pro bono legal assistance. Its formal launch took place on 19th October 2010.
Please click here to see the press release.
David Hobart, Chief Executive of the Bar Council said "...the significance of the National Pro Bono Centre is the facility for all three arms of the legal profession to come together in their work in the public interest...".
The UK Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC MP welcomed the centre, saying "...the work done in the name of pro bono is indispensable. It makes a real difference to people who need legal help but cannot afford to pay for it...". Robin Knowles CBE QC said "...pro bono is part of being a lawyer".
This centre is not intended to replace legal aid but facilitates access to a range of legal expertise. Sponsors include companies, barristers chambers and law firms big and small.
The information contained on this website is for information purposes only, it is not to be construed as legal advice. FLAC accepts no responsibility for actions taken on foot of this website or for the content of external websites or information sources referred to within it.