Sullivan v. Boylan  IEHC 389 (High Court, Hogan J, 4 October 2012)
In this case the High Court granted an injunction restraining a debt collector from parking his van outside the house of an alleged debtor, and from contacting her directly, arising from unlawful conduct calculated to cause alarm, distress and humiliation.
The Judge stated that this case involved the inviolability of the dwelling which was subject to constitutional protection. The case arose out of a claim by a building contractor for monies arising from works to her dwelling house. The building contractor retained a debt collector to recover the monies. The debt collector threatened to park his van signed “Debt Collector” outside the house of the alleged debtor if the monies were not paid. The debtor received aggressive e-mails and telephone calls with threats to expose other business dealings. The van marked “Licensed Debt Collectors” was parked outside the house.
The alleged debtor made an application for an interlocutory injunction to the Court to restrain the debt collector from watching or besetting her house citing sections 10 and 11of the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997, claiming that criminal offences of watching and besetting were taking place. The case also concerned constitutional protection of dwelling, namely Article 40.3.2 of the constitution which protects the freedom of a person to come and go to and from his own dwelling.
In his Judgment Mr Justice Hogan stated : “In the present case it requires little imagination to visualise the acute mental distress which Ms. Sullivan suffered as a result of this outrageous conduct. The citizen’s right to the security of his or her person necessarily implies that the subjection by unlawful means of any person to what would objectively be regarded as acute mental distress must be regarded as amounting in itself to a breach of Article 40.3.2……. One might ask: who in such circumstances would feel safe in their house if, prior to entering or exiting their own private dwelling, they were effectively forced to run the gauntlet of passing what amounts to a picket bearing unpleasant messages by a menacing stranger, especially where these messages were designed to intimidate and humiliate?”
While a Creditor may reasonably believe that a debtor owes him money he should be careful to use only lawful means to collect his debt. In this instance the alleged debtor issued High Court Proceedings. The amount allegedly owed was disputed and certainly did not exceed €20,000.00. While not revealed in the High Court Judgment an Order for Costs generally follows the Award and it is likely that this Creditor, bearing in mind that he could be liable for his own legal costs and the legal costs of the alleged debtor ended up paying out more than the original disputed debt.