Court orders arrest of mother of four over failure to move caravan from housing estate

Sandra O'Brien had previously given an undertaking before the High Court that she would vacate Church Hill estate in Tullamore
Court orders arrest of mother of four over failure to move caravan from housing estate

High Court reporters

A judge has ordered that a mother of four be arrested and brought before the High Court over her alleged failure to remove her caravan from a Co Offaly housing estate.

Sandra O'Brien had previously given an undertaking before the High Court that she would vacate Church Hill estate in Tullamore, Co Offaly, where she and her family have been residing in a caravan for several months, by 10am on Tuesday, May 17th.

However, when the matter returned before the High Court on Tuesday afternoon the court was told that Ms O'Brien's caravan had moved from one part of the estate to another.

Mr Justice Alexander Owens ordered that Ms O'Brien be arrested by gardaí and brought back before the court at a later date due to her alleged failure to comply.

Ms O'Brien was not represented, nor in court for the hearing.

The estate is in the control of a NAMA appointed receiver Aiden Murphy of Crowe Ireland who had acquired High Court orders requiring trespass to cease.

The caravans have no legal entitlement to be in the estate, the court heard.

While those orders were initially complied with, caravans had returned to the estate on several occasions.

Arising out of the most recent trespass, the receiver, represented in court by Garret Flynn Bl, brought attachment and committal proceedings against Ms O’Brien over her alleged refusal to comply with the orders.

When she was before the court last week Ms O’Brien gave an undertaking that her caravan would vacate the estate by the morning of Tuesday, May 17th next.

However, Mr Flynn said an inspection of the estate on Tuesday revealed that her caravan had been moved from one part of the estate to another.

Counsel said while the caravan's licence plate had been removed, his client was satisfied that it is Ms O'Brien's caravan.

Mr Justice Owens said he was satisfied that Ms O'Brien had fully understood what would happen if she breached her undertaking to vacate the site and ordered that she be arrested and brought before the court to answer the allegations that she is in contempt of court.

The court previously heard that there had been several instances of trespassing on the estate in recent years.

'Nowhere to go'

In 2016 several caravans illegally moved into and trespassed on the estate, resulting in the receiver obtaining a High Court injunction requiring them to vacate the land.

That order, which required the trespassers to immediately vacate the property, was initially complied with.

However, from late 2017 counsel said there had been further instances where the caravans had returned and again trespassed on the estate.

Late last year several caravans, including one occupied by Ms O’Brien, her husband and four children, had moved onto a tarmacked part of the estate's 'green' or common area.

She was served with court proceedings last February but had refused to vacate the site.

Counsel added that the presence of the caravans was preventing the receiver from carrying out certain works in the estate before it can be handed over to the local authority.

There had also been complaints made to the receiver about anti-social behaviour on the estate.

The receiver, the court heard, was reluctant to seek to have Ms O'Brien committed to prison but had been left with no option due to the refusal to comply with the court order.

Ms O'Brien, when previously before the court, said her family had “nowhere to go” and that she feared for her children’s safety if they had to go and “live by the side of the road.”

She said she and her family had been seeking a house from the local council.

They had not been provided with accommodation by the local authority, and she added that she would be happy to vacate Church Hill if they were given a house.

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