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By J
05/02/2010

How did this happen?

…. or something to that effect, is what I imagine HHJ Purle QC said when he got the papers in Pick (Trustee in bankruptcy of Sharon Sumpter) v Sharon Sumpter & George Sumpter, Chancery Division, 3.2.10 – Lawtel note only

The claimant, as trustee in bankruptcy of the respondents sought an order for possession and sale of what I presume was the family home. At trial, the judge granted a possession order and an order for sale. The order was, however, suspended on terms that the respondents pay the bankruptcy debt and costs, which the trial judge fixed at just over £25,000.

The trustee applied for a review of this order and, rather than the terms of suspension being quashed (which, frankly, is what should have happened), the period for payment was extended. P sought to appeal this order but, for reasons that the Lawtel note does not disclose, the appeal was stayed.

Some four years (!) later it appears that the appeal finally came on for hearing. HHJ Purle QC (sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court) allowed the appeal. The approach of the trial judge had been entirely wrong. He had treated the case as if it was a mortgage possession claim and given time to pay. This, in effect, frustrated both the possession order and order for sale and, in doing so, prejudiced the creditors.

In addition, there was no basis for fixing the total bankruptcy debt (and costs) at just over £25,000. The professional fees fell to be assessed after the conclusion of proceedings.

The judge should simply have made an order for possession and left the trustee to administer the sale and apply the proceeds to the discharge of the debt.

This is another one of those cases where you really wish there was a transcript. It looks like the right result in the end but by a rather circuitous route!

Posted in: Possession
J is a barrister. He considers housing law to be the single greatest kind of law known to humankind and finds it very odd that so few people share this view.

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