Friday 22 July 2016

Concern over the practice of buying & selling of older consumer credit debts; court action dismissed for absence of proof

Govan Law Centre has successfully defended an ordinary cause action at Glasgow Sheriff Court for an alleged consumer credit debt of £7,500.  Cabot Financial UK Ltd claimed they had purchased the debt from OPUS Credit Card (a trade mark of SAV Credit Ltd) in September 2011.  Our client had no recollection of ever having this credit card, and had no paperwork in relation to this credit agreement.

The action was defended upon the basis the defender was not due the debt. The pursuer was called upon to lodge in court the original regulated consumer credit agreement, a statement of how the debt was accrued and a copy of the assignation agreement of the debt. They failed to do so, and agreed to dismiss the action against our client with no expenses.

Our client's solicitor, GLC's Mike Dailly said:
"This case raises wider issues in relation to the general practice of the buying and selling of consumer debts in Scotland and the UK. Court actions are being raised when the purchaser of the debt would appear not to have proof of the legal constitution of the debt - that shouldn't happen. We are also concerned that debts are being pursued which have 'prescribed' and been extinguished in law. If you are being pursued for an old debt you should take advice from a local law centre, advice agency or solicitor as to your legal rights and liabilities".

In Scotland, consumer credit debts can prescribe and become unenforceable in law where no payments have been made for five years, and where the debt has not been subject to court or other legal proceedings, or been "relevantly acknowledged" by the debtor.  The relevant rule is set out in section 6 of the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973.

"Relevantly acknowledged" is defined by section 10 of the 1973 Act to mean where the debtor performs the obligation (e.g. by making a payment arrangement) or writes to the creditor and admits the obligation exists. A relevant acknowledgement means the five year time period begins again. If in doubt you should take independent legal advice to know whether a liability to make payment exists or not.

Wednesday 20 July 2016

Time to end the unfair financial windfall of creditors from Scottish debtors

Govan Law Centre (GLC) has written to the Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy in Scotland, Mr Paul Wheelhouse MSP, expressing our concern that many creditors are gaining a massive financial windfall at the expense of financially vulnerable people in Scotland who are finding it tough to make ends meet.  

The financial windfall for creditors occurs because of a lacuna in the law. Scotland's judicial rate of interest has remained at 8% per annum, at a time when inflation has been at a historic low for many years; as has the Bank of England's base rate, which remains at 0.5%.

To give a practical example. GLC has a client who entered into a protected trust deed just over a decade ago with a mix of unsecured loans, credit cards and overdrafts in the sum of £27,321. Our client owns a house in Glasgow South West with equity, has four dependent children and his wife has recently died from cancer. This family now face repossession. 

Our client made his monthly payments over the years without fail to the trustee, and was advised by the insolvency firm to enter into this arrangement with a view to re-mortgaging at a later date, however, this was prior to the financial crisis. Just over a decade later and our client owes those creditors a staggering £52,507. We believe this is grossly unfair. 

A further additional £14,736 is owed for the fees of the trustees and their solicitors (the overall sum due is £75,474 on a debt of £27,321; and this sum is growing daily).

 GLC's Principal Solicitor, Mike Dailly said:
"Any member of the public investing savings in an ISA or savings vehicle would expect to gain interest of 0.5% to 1%. Yet, creditors are entitled to 8% interest on debts which are subject to a protected trust deed or sequestration. We believe this is an unjust windfall, and a lacuna in the law which could easily be rectified by the Scottish Government reducing the judicial rate of interest on debts to a percentage more aligned to the base interest rate by way of a Scottish statutory instrument".

"We would be happy to meet with the Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy and/or his officials to provide further examples, and discuss how this issue could be best addressed to minimise the need for avoidable repossessions, and striking a fair and equitable balance between the interests of creditors and debtors in Scotland".

Friday 15 July 2016

Cover-up of human rights abuses and social apartheid against Kurds in southeast Turkey

Carole Ewart, Peter Hunter, Dee Flanigan,
Muharrem Erbey, Mike Dailly and Jillian Merchant
Govan Law Centre (GLC) was honoured to take part in a briefing from Turkey's Kurdish human rights lawyer and Vice-President of the Human Rights Association (IHD), Muharrem Erbey at UNISON Scotland's Glasgow HQ today.

Mr Erbey had been imprisoned without trial for five years under Turkey's 'Anti-Terror Law' since December 2009 on charges of 'membership of an illegal organisation'. He still awaits trial and is facing a further 15 years in prison if convicted; however, the charges against him are linked to his work as a human rights lawyer.

Anyone who democratically exposes or challenges human rights abuses in southeast Turkey is treated as a 'terrorist' and silenced through arrest, prison, intimidation, and fear.

Muharrem Erbey has worked for many years as a human rights lawyer and advocate in the southeast of Turkey, compiling reports on disappearances and extra-judicial killings in the region, while also representing local individuals in provincial, national and international courts (including the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg).

GLC heard oral testimony today which confirms there is wide-scale state suppression of the most grievous of human rights abuses against Kurdish people in southeast Turkey; with cities and infrastructure being destroyed and bombed, local people being unlawfully killed, and Kurdish culture being outlawed in a brutal form of social apartheid.

Over 50 Kurdish lawyers who have stood up against human rights abuses have been imprisoned and/or are awaiting trial; with 33 journalists in prison for trying to report this humanitarian crisis.

In May this year the United Nations human rights chief reported having received a succession of alarming reports about violations allegedly committed by Turkish military and security forces in south-east Turkey over the past few months, and urged the Turkish authorities to give independent investigators, including UN staff, unimpeded access to the area to verify the veracity of such reports. And yet, no-one is allowed to access and report on these human rights abuses.

Clearly, there is a major role for Scottish MSPs, MPs and MEPs to do more to help expose these human right abuses and ensure that Scottish and UK delegations are permitted entry to affected cities and communities in southeast Turkey; as well as using Scotland and the UK's influence to support the UN and EU to use its powers and tools to put pressure on the Government in Turkey to respect the rule of law and the legal, social and cultural rights of minority groups.

Thursday 7 July 2016

Govan Law Centre gives evidence to UN on housing and human rights in Scotland

Govan Law Centre (GLC) are concerned that living standards in Glasgow and Scotland have been decreasing in recent years as a result of austerity and cuts to services. What many people perhaps don’t realise is that this decline is a human rights issue and the UK has an obligation under international human rights law to always be progressively realising economic and social rights.

The UK and Scottish Governments must always be raising living standards and not violating the human right to an adequate standard of living by rolling housing standards back. The UN Committee on Economic and Social Rights reviews this progress every six years and in June 2016 they reviewed the UK’s record since 2008 and found it to be severely lacking. 
GLC contributed to this review by submitting a parallel report to let the UN know about the housing issues affecting our clients and the community we serve. This project was supported by the Legal Education Foundation through its Justice First Fellowship scheme. Our report told the Committee about:
·         Homelessness and rough sleeping in Glasgow
·         Experiences of tenants in the private rented sector
·         People with disabilities who are threat of losing their home
·         Asylum seekers housing rights
We recommended a list of 11 questions for the UN Committee to ask the UK at the review in Geneva and many of these issues were reflected in the Committee’s recommendations which can be read on their website.

Report author, GLC’s Dee Flanigan said: “Some of this information was directly from test cases being pursued by our Public Interest Litigation Unit (PILU). This Unit plans on using the UN Committee’s recommendations to set priorities for future cases. Two of our clients, Scott and Wadzanayi, also contributed by telling their own stories”.

GLC's Dee Flanigan
“The UN Committee shares our concerns about the private rented sector and urges the UK to address its social housing deficit and to more effectively regulate the private rented sector. They also are very concerned about the treatment of asylum seekers and urge the UK to allow them to work so they are not reliant on the state for food and housing. We pointed this out in our report”.

“In general the UN Committee criticised austerity measures saying that they were: ‘seriously concerned about the disproportionate adverse impact that austerity measures, introduced since 2010, are having on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups.’”
“We are meeting with the Scottish Government next month to discuss the recommendations. Meanwhile our PILU continues to pursue test cases to improve human rights especially the right to an adequate standard of living. The UN reviews many areas of human rights compliance and we will intend to report to them to let them know the real story of what is happening in our community”.