Monks v Revenue & Customs Commissioners (2006)
A decision by a bankruptcy registrar not to grant an adjournment of the hearing of a bankruptcy petition to allow a debtor to make arrangements for the payment of the petition debt could not be faulted
The appellant debtor (M) appealed against a bankruptcy order against him, which was based on a debt owed to the respondent Revenue. The hearing of the petition was adjourned to allow M to file returns late. A number of subsequent adjournments were granted to enable the filing of further returns and to allow the Revenue the opportunity to consider the returns, following which the petition debt was reduced. When the petition went before the court, M produced letters that indicated that he intended to obtain a remortgage to enable him to settle the debt. The hearing was adjourned. At a subsequent hearing a mortgage offer was produced and the matter was adjourned to enable the remortgage to take place. At the next hearing the remortgage had still not taken place, a further adjournment was refused and a bankruptcy order was made.
Whether or not to grant an adjournment of a bankruptcy petition to allow a debtor to make arrangements for the payment of the petition debt was essentially a matter for the discretion of the bankruptcy registrar to be exercised on the material place before him. An appellate court should only intervene if it was satisfied that the registrar had erred in principle or law in making his decision, Gilmartin, Re (1989) 1 WLR 513 and Dickens v Inland Revenue (2004) EWHC 852 (Ch) applied. In his judgment the registrar had concluded that he had to balance the rival considerations of the two parties and decided that in the circumstances a reasonable time had been given to M to settle the debt, which was still unpaid, and made the bankruptcy order. It was impossible to fault the registrar's approach to the exercise of his discretion. There was no convincing evidence before the court that the remortgage would have taken place if the bankruptcy order had not been made.