A mortgage lender has won control of an unemployed Co Tyrone couple's home following a legal battle involving allegations of secretly recorded conversations and confidential documents going missing.
Swift 1st Limited was granted a High Court order for possession of premises at Sessiagh Scott Road in Dungannon in connection with a £177,000 loan.
The couple who borrowed the money, James and Maureen McCourt, have been plunged into negative equity.
It was revealed that they are currently nearly £40,000 in arrears on repayments, the last of which was made in August 2010.
A judge who heard the action described them as victims of Northern Ireland's economic downturn.
Mr Justice Horner said: “They have no employment and the value of the premises, which were once worth £300,000 when the charge was taken out, is now insufficient even, if the premises were sold, to discharge their indebtedness.”
Mr and Mrs McCourt took out the loan in 2007 to pay off an earlier mortgage on the property which had gone into arrears.
Swift offers subprime mortgages to customers unable to obtain finance from traditional high street lenders, the court heard.
Mrs McCourt, who was not legally represented, was said to have written or spoken to officials at other companies which did business with Swift in a “dogged” attempt to prevent the order being made.
The judge said: “The defendant has even on occasions resorted to taping conversations of the plaintiff's risk manager without his knowledge or permission.”
It was disclosed that confidential documents provided to the defendant at hearing were not all returned as they should have been.
A file was missing and some papers removed from another folder, with Mr Justice Horner describing a subsequent explanation as “less than convincing”.
“It is sufficient to record here that the defendant's single-minded determination to defeat the plaintiff's claim may have led the defendant to believe the ends justify the means,” he added.
All grounds of defence, including claims that Swift is not the legal owner of the charge and that the terms of the arrangement are unfair, were rejected.
Granting an order for possession of the premises, Mr Justice Horner agreed to put a six-week stay in enforcement of the order.