Northern Ireland

Man's nervous breakdown caused by pursued debt, court hears

Image caption The man suffered a nervous breakdown after the sub-prime loan company pursued him over a debt.

The High Court in Belfast has been told that a man suffered a nervous breakdown and attempted suicide as a result of a sub-prime loan company pursuing him over a debt.

The case involved the firm Swift Advances.

It was attempting to repossess the man's home over a £9,000 loan.

The judge accepted that phone call logs submitted by Swift Advances "suggest a more responsible attitude" on the firm's part than portrayed by the man.

The judge granted the repossession order but suspended it on the basis that the man will now repay the remainder of the loan over a 20 year period.

The court was told that the loan was taken out in 2007 with an interest rate of almost 12%.

As well as the principal amount there were also fees of more than £1,400.

Job lost

The man made all his monthly payments until he lost his job as a carpet fitter in November 2008 due to the downturn in the construction industry.

He was unable to maintain the monthly instalment but did make fairly regular payments of lesser amounts.

His barrister calculated that to date he had paid £4,698. However, default charges and legal costs mean that he now owes almost £18,000.

The court also heard the man was quick to alert Swift Advance to his initial difficulties and the firm agreed to accept half payments of the monthly instalments for a limited period.

However, the firm did not agree to his suggestions that the term of the loan be extended or that interest be frozen for a while.

The man said the firm's staff caused him considerable concern by making numerous phone calls to him.

He described those telephone calls as "very intimidating", claiming that on each occasion he was told that he must pay the full arrears or risk court proceedings.

He added that he continued to try to negotiate with the plaintiff but all of his suggestions were rejected out of hand.

He described himself as "desperate and very frightened" at the prospect that he may lose his home where he lives with his wife and two young children.

The man became so depressed that he suffered a nervous breakdown with recurring episodes of mental imbalance and made an attempt on his own life in May 2011.

Swift Advances submitted an affidavit showing its staff called him 21 times in 2009.

The judge, Master Ellison, said: "A log of such phone calls suggests a more responsible attitude on the part of the plaintiff's staff than indicated by the defendant's evidence on the point."

As the man's health declined his payments became more sporadic, totalling just £400 in the past year.

He said he has now got his finances in order with the help of the Housing Rights Service.

Master Ellison ordered that the outstanding sum be repaid over 20 years with monthly instalments of £132.99.

He will review the case in six months.