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PMS savers facing more misery over court ruling

By Claire McNeilly

Presbyterian savers in Northern Ireland face further misery after a judge ruled that some of them are not entitled to income from assets realised in the past two years.

Yesterday’s ruling said that those who saved £20,000 or less in the Presbyterian Mutual Society (PMS) were shareholders and could not be classed as creditors.

They are therefore not entitled to share in any of the £20m of |income the society has generated since it went into administration in 2008, according to the judge.

The news came on the same day Prime Minister Gordon Brown was holding talks in Downing Street with First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness about securing government aid for the stricken PMS savers.

After the meeting, Mr Robinson said all options must be considered as soon as possible to help reach a resolution for the society's savers. And he stressed that it could take time to ensure savers were properly looked after.

The collapse of the PMS — which did not qualify for government support — affected almost 10,000 savers.

Belfast High Court judge Mr Justice Donal Deeny ruled that shareholder members of the society are not creditors and are not entitled to interim payouts from the administrators.

A spokeswoman for the Courts Service said: “Mr Justice Deeny sympathised with those shareholders who have found themselves in difficult circumstances but concluded that the shareholders of the PMS who did not withdraw their shares either before the PMS imposed a 21-day notice period in October 2008 or after the expiry of that notice period in mid-November cannot be creditors of the PMS in respect of those shares.”

Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionist Party met Presbyterian moderator Stafford Carson and delegates yesterday and raised the plight of savers. Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey and deputy Danny Kennedy attended the meeting at Stormont.

“I believe it is now critical that there is full-scale Treasury involvement, with appropriate financial help, to ensure that the Prime Minister's pledge that no saver in the United Kingdom would suffer as an effect of the economic downturn can be fully honoured,” Sir Reg said.

“This has gone on for 16 months and people are in great distress.

“All other financial institutions have been rescued, including those who were behaving recklessly and endangering depositors' money.

“To date, neither director, auditor nor regulator has been asked to pay any price for their failure.”

The fate of the PMS was also raised in the recent Hillsborough Castle talks.

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