Hamish Fletcher

Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Struck-off lawyer's ex-wife loses Irish country estate fight

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

The ex-wife of a struck-off Papakura lawyer - who fled this country in the 1990s during a Serious Fraud Office probe - is unable to bring a claim here to establish her stake in an Irish country estate, according to the Court of Appeal.

James Speedy was struck off from the roll of barristers and solicitors in 1996 - about four years after he and his then wife Pauline fled to Ireland.

The cause of Speedy's flight, according to a recent court decision, was "the discovery of financial irregularities in his legal practise".

Their move was aided by Speedy's family, however his mother now complains that Pauline "insisted on flying business class" and that the couple "used her credit card without authority to pay the deposit on a BMW car", the decision said.

The Speedys were bankrupted in 1993 - the same year an Irish country house sitting on 47 acres of land was bought for them to live in.

The property, known as Summer Grove House, was bought with funds advanced by Speedy's parents and his brother.

A Turks and Caicos Islands company holds the property's title, apparently to ensure it was beyond the reach of the former lawyer's creditors, the court decision said.

The property, according to Speedy's brother Dale, was intended to allow James and Pauline to become self-supporting and they proposed to establish horse training and bed and breakfast businesses.

See the property at the heart of the dispute here:

The couple lived at the property rent-free and a mortgage was taken out in 1999 to finance renovations. While they were to pay the outgoings on this, the court decision said they fell into default.

After 27 acres of the property was sold and the bank and other creditors repaid, it was agreed if Speedy ran into financial trouble again he was to sort it without recourse to the house or the land and his family, "who would not bail him out again," the court decision
said.

James and Pauline separated in 2006, with the former lawyer still living at the Irish country house today.

Pauline Schumacher, as she now goes by, in 2011 issued proceedings against the Turks and Caicos Islands firm, this company's shareholder, and James' mother and brother.
Schumacher sought a declaration these defendants held the Summer Grove house and land by of way of constructive trust for her benefit.

Schumacher, according to the court decision, claimed she and James spent money renovating the property and developing a business with the " reasonable expectation she would acquire a proprietary interest in Summer Grove House".

However, these defendants applied to have the proceedings here dismissed, saying the New Zealand High Court did not have the jurisdiction to decide the matter.

Justice Mark Woolford last year dismissed Schumacher's claim, saying it was more appropriate for the case to happen in the Irish courts.

Schumacher then challenged that judgement in the Court of Appeal in July of this year.

But in a ruling last month, Justices Ellen France, John Wild and Forrest Miller said the High Court judge was correct to find Ireland was the "natural forum" for the case.

"On balance, we have no doubt that Ireland is the appropriate forum for this proceeding," the Court of Appeal judges said.

- NZ Herald

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