Scores and maybe even hundreds of Mid Ulster’s elderly have been forced to fight Health Trusts for ownership of their homes in recent years.
One solicitor working in the area alerted the Mail to the numbers of people caught up in this situation, saying that many cases had even gone to the High Court in Belfast.
But most of the Mail’s Freedom of Information requests on this subject were turned down with the use of section 12 of FOI which “makes provision for public authorities to refuse request of information where the cost of dealing with them would exceed the appropriate limit”.
For central government this cost is £600, the estimated cost of one person working on the request for 3.5 days, while for the Trusts, the limit is set at £450.
Following the revelation in December of last year, The Mail contacted both the Southern and Northern Health Trusts as well as the Department of Justice to ask how many people were affected, how many cases had reached the High Court and how much money each of the two Trusts had made through such proceedings.
While the Northern Trust said it had “made no referrals to the Directorate of Legal Services for clients in Magherafelt/Cookstown over property issues” - a response it stands over - the Southern Trust said it doesn’t store such information in a way that would “assist the extraction of data based on the above detail”.
While the Trusts said they could not provide figures they did add that “legal proceedings have been issued in a number of cases specific to property and a number of settlements have been agreed”.
They also said none of the cases reached the High Court in the last three years.
But when asked for further detail on the number of settlements reached, figures were again not available, the reason given being: “The information is not stored in a database which would assist extraction. The Department of Justice, said it too would not be able to provide details.