Philip Hinks, acting under the auspices of Advocate (the Bar pro bono unit), achieved an important result for his client (NB) at a hearing on 28 February 2022.
A bankruptcy order had been made against NB in 2016. That order had been made on the basis of unpaid council tax liability orders amount to approx. £9k.
During the period to which the liability orders relate, NB had been entitled to job seekers’ allowance and, as a consequence of that, council tax benefit.
Council tax benefit had not, however, been applied to NB’s council tax account. Had such benefit been applied, the amount NB would have owed to the Council at the time he was made bankrupt would have been below the bankruptcy threshold of £5k, and no bankruptcy order could have been made.
Significantly, NB had informed the Council on a number of occasions prior to the bankruptcy order being made that he was entitled to council tax benefit.
In 2020, four years after NB had been made bankrupt, the Council belatedly acknowledged that NB was entitled to council tax benefit during the relevant period. It was at that stage that NB applied to Advocate for help.
Philip agreed to act for NB under the auspices of Advocate, and Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP (Peter Sharp, Paul Mesquitta, Nick Woolf and Charlotte Warke) also agreed to act for him pro bono.
An application to annul the bankruptcy order was made and, at a hearing on 28 February 2022, the Court handed down judgment in NB’s favour. The Court held that the bankruptcy petition which had been presented against NB “should never have seen the light of day”, and that the bankruptcy order had come about by reason of the “wholly inadequate performance” of the Council’s functions.
The Court annulled NB’s bankruptcy, ordered the Council to pay the trustee in bankruptcy’s costs of more than £100k, and ordered the Council to pay pro bono costs by making a donation of £12k to Advocate.