Belfast Telegraph

Couple sue Santander bank over alleged harassment

By Alan Erwin

A couple phoned nearly 100 times in six months over mortgage arrears are suing the bank for alleged harassment, it emerged today.

Thomas and Maxine Carlin have issued proceedings against Santander over a series of calls and letters to them after defaulting on repayments.

Details emerged as a High Court judge lifted an injunction preventing the bank from trying to reclaim money owed to it.

However, Mr Justice Deeny also held that Santander had disobeyed an earlier order by continuing with correspondence.

He accepted the bank had not acted in wilful defiance, but rejected a reason given that its central computer is in Spain.

"If banks want to operate on a very large scale they are entitled to do so but they are not entitled to prejudice the rights of citizens of the United Kingdom and they are not entitled to fail to obey the order of the court," the judge said.

The court heard 95 calls or attempted calls were made to Mr and Mrs Carlin since June last year.

The couple are in default on a £213,000 mortgage and they are now in arrears of £16,000.

Payments were stopped because of the alleged handling of their case by Santander.

Ruling on the Carlin's bid for an injunction to restrain the bank from trespassing on their home at an undisclosed address, Mr Justice Deeny had to establish whether they have an arguable harassment claim.

In a judgment given last December but only published today, he held that the facts fell well below the threshold established in an English case where another bank made 547 calls to a woman in 14 months.

According to Mr Justice Deeny the level of attempted communication with the Carlins, roughly every other day, was neither grave nor severe.

"I do not think the court should condemn as unlawful a lender which is owed large sums of money on one account and smaller sums of money in relation to other accounts for putting their computers to trying to get the people to repay them money as long as that remains within reason," he said.

"It seems to me that the facts here... do not amount to bombarding a debtor with endless calls, although there is certainly a measure of repetition. 

"Therefore, I uphold the submissions of senior counsel on behalf of the defendant that there was not an arguable case to be pursued here and therefore it is not appropriate to grant an interlocutory injunction."

It was acknowledged, however, that a different verdict may be reached when the case ultimately goes to trial.

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