Women given hope of halting homes seizures

IN A CASE that could affect hundreds of women, the House of Lords yesterday decided in favour of a woman threatened with repossession of her home by the bank that lent her husband money. Bridget O'Brien, who has six children, is now not liable for the full legal charge on her house, despite signing a second mortgage to guarantee her husband's business debts.

Lord Browne-Wilkinson said that because the lender, Barclays Bank, did not explain the implications of the transaction to her and did not recommend that she seek independent legal advice, she is freed from the charge.

But the ruling emphasized that a wife can only be released from her obligations if her partner has misrepresented the situation, has had undue influence, or has otherwise wronged her legally.

At Westminster yesterday, Mrs O'Brien said: 'This has cost me a lot . . . but if it helps some people to keep their homes . . . then it's worth it.'

Pat Griffiths, national coordinator of the Bank Action Group, which helped Mrs O'Brien publicise her case, estimates that 'thousands' of women in Britain are in similar situations.

Belinda Fahlberg, an Australian solicitor with the Family Law Group at Oxford University, said the case is part of an international phenomenon, known in Australia as 'sexually transmitted debt'.

But the British Bankers Association said that the judgment is unlikely to have any implications for British banks, because they have been following the Law Lords' recommended procedures under a voluntary code of conduct since 1992. A spokeswoman said: 'The judgment has fairly specific connotations and the number of cases it will affect is very small'.

Mr O'Brien, a chartered accountant, had an interest in a company, Heathrow Fabrications Ltd, which in 1987 frequently exceeded its overdraft. When Barclays agreed that Mr O'Brien could increase the overdraft to pounds 135,000, Mrs O'Brien was required to sign a document for a second mortgage on the family home, as security for Mr O'Brien's debts.

Mr O'Brien told his wife that she was guaranteeing a pounds 60,000 loan for three weeks. She took him on trust, and the bank branch failed to explain the loan to Mrs O'Brien or recommend that she take independent financial advice.

In months, the debt had mounted to pounds 154,000 and her home was about to be repossessed. Mrs O'Brien lost her case against repossession but the decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal, which said banks have a special duty of care to wives who provide security for their husband's debts. She repaid the pounds 60,000 she believed she was liable for, but Barclays took the case to the House of Lords to recover the rest. The O'Briens are still living together.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there