Doctor who was facing £300m in claims asks for désastre recall

Royal Court. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (37062542) (37905031)

A JERSEY doctor who was facing claims from creditors of more than £300 million is applying to no longer be deemed bankrupt.

Dr Gail Cochrane was officially declared “en désastre” in 2016, alongside the company Orb, for which she was believed to be sole shareholder at the time, with a number of creditors claiming sums that racked up collectively to over £1billion.

In 2017, however, she claimed that she owned very little and was not able to pay.

This was despite having previously told the Royal Court she was a “very wealthy woman, with holdings in dozens of companies worldwide”, and an array of properties around the world.

Her income was then put into an account on the order of the Viscount for the purpose of paying creditors. The Viscount also took control of assets valued at around £75,000.

In 2021, the Royal Court heard how the claims filed by potential creditors in Dr Cochrane’s désastre case totalled £305,261,798.37.

However, most of the income in the Viscount-held account was used to cover her medical indemnity insurance and personal living costs.

It was also heard at the time that, due to an ongoing High Court legal case in England involving her former husband, who has previously been convicted of fraud, the ownership of many of Dr Cochrane’s possessions remained the subject of proceedings, with “uncertainty” still hanging over how they would be distributed.

As such, the court decided to extend the bankruptcy declaration, noting that: “Until the English proceedings are finally determined, including any appeals, it remains unclear whether and to what extent there will be any assets available to meet these claims.”

Dr Cochrane is now applying to recall the orders for désastre, but firstly applied to limit the ability of the Viscount to take part in the process.

In February, the Royal Court was asked to determine whether the Viscount should be a “proper party” to the application, beyond providing what Dr Cochrane’s lawyer, Advocate Jeremy Garrood, described as “the administrative tasks of providing an up-to-date list of creditors”.

It was further argued that the views of the Viscount on the application would be “irrelevant”, and concerns were expressed that “the Viscount might be acting unlawfully or prejudicially to the interests of the representor by incurring unnecessary costs in the désastre process”, according to the judgment published this week.

But Commissioner Matthew Thompson, who heard the case, disagreed, saying the Viscount would be able to provide helpful information.

Giving an example, he explained that, if a debtor were to dispute that certain individuals were creditors, the Viscount would be able to provide evidence to the Royal Court in relation to the claim.

“Ultimately, however, it may well be for the creditor concerned to set out why it is a creditor if the position is disputed or is contentious,” the Commissioner continued.

“In this case I ordered that all creditors identified by the Viscount should be notified of the proceedings and given an opportunity to indicate whether they wished to take part.

“I also required the representor to file all her affidavit evidence that she intended to rely on in support of her application and to make the same available by the time creditors were to be notified of the application.

“This was to enable creditors to understand the stance the representor was taking in relation to each creditor’s claim and to evaluate whether that creditor wished to challenge the representor’s stance.”

The Commissioner added that, while the Viscount’s role was therefore “limited” to an extent, they “should not be fettered in making submissions on the exercise of such a discretion again while taking care not to fight battles on behalf of creditors who are able to protect their own position”.

He added: “Accordingly, I determined that the Viscount should be joined as a respondent to the representation and should be entitled to have access to all material filed by the representor.”

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