Supreme Court to consider contempt of court proceedings against unnamed people

Appeal was granted in proceedings taken against unknown residents in two Dublin buildings associated with businessman Jerry Beades

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal containing “important, but potentially difficult and troubling questions” about the handling of contempt of court proceedings.

The court will consider arguments on the general jurisdiction of courts to make and enforce such orders against unnamed or unknown people.

The appeal was granted in contempt of court proceedings taken against some 20 people due to their refusal for 15 years to comply with court orders to leave buildings located at 31 Richmond Avenue, Fairview, and 21 Little Mary Street, Dublin 7.

The residents claimed their failure to comply was because they had nowhere else to go.


The orders were sought by financial fund Pepper Finance Corporation (Ireland DAC) which said it had acquired loans for the properties, whose registered owner is businessman Jerry Beades. These fell into arrears, Pepper said.

While some occupants claimed to have paid rent over the years to Mr Beades, there was no evidence, since the possession orders were made, that Mr Beades had made payments to anyone else, the court heard.

The orders finding the occupants in contempt of court were made by the High Court in 2021. However, none of the individuals in question were ever committed to prison.

When making the orders, Mr Justice Mark Sanfey expressed his sympathy with the residents’ situation and urged the parties to co-operate in a bid to help find the mainly foreign occupants alternative accommodation.

The occupants appealed the High Court’s finding. Last year, the Court of Appeal set aside the attachment and committal orders made by the lower court after holding that the occupants had not been properly served with all the relevant legal documents.

The Court of Appeal said the failure to effect proper service of those documents was “a material omission” and left it with no option but to intervene.

The court found the penal endorsements were invalid and service of the orders were not validly affected in a manner sufficient to form a valid application to involve the contempt jurisdiction of the High Court.

The Court of Appeal added that the Constitution says no citizen should be deprived of their liberty except in accordance with law. Pepper had sought the eviction of the occupants from properties it had lawfully recovered from a defaulting mortgagor.

The two properties in question comprised 12 units that were the family homes of the occupants.

The Court of Appeal held that while Pepper had no direct legal relationship with the occupants, it was entitled to seek relief to secure vacant possession.

However, Pepper had not taken adequate steps to ascertain the identities of all those living in the building before the documents were served.

It also failed to properly serve all relevant people with all of the legal documents concerning the committal applications.

Pepper appealed the Court of Appeal’s decision.

In a written determination, a three-judge panel comprising Chief Justice Donal O’Donnell, Mr Justice Peter Charleton and Mr Justice Gerard Hogan agreed the appeal raised important issues “as to the manner in which the contempt of court jurisdiction is exercised”.

The court said the questions raised included the method of service of court orders and the nature of civil contempt jurisdiction.

The case also raised the question as to whether people who may have entered into occupation of a property as trespassers or after a court order for possession can assert constitutional protection in respect of the dwelling.

Many of the issues have not been the subject of an authoritative decision by the Supreme Court.

The panel of judges also noted in their determination a claim that Pepper had since sold the loans that were at the centre of the dispute.

A further issue will be whether the company has the legal standing to maintain the appeal even if it holds extensive security over the property, the panel said.

The properties were the subject of High Court possession orders in 2008. These were affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2014.

The possession orders arose from a default on loans from IIB Bank. They were sold to KBC Bank, Beltany Property Finance and to Pepper.

Pepper claimed some €2.3 million was outstanding on the loans and, as a result of the possession orders, the occupants, which included a number of Romanian nationals and two young children, could not rely on rental agreements between them and Mr Beades.