Public examinations (bankruptcy)

An examination in public, before a Registrar in Bankruptcy or a magistrate, of a bankrupt, on oath, as to his or her conduct, trade, dealings, property and affairs.

A public examination is court ordered, based on the application of a creditor, Official Receiver, or trustee in bankruptcy, and will take place in either the Federal Court or the Federal Circuit Court. At a public examination, a bankrupt is required to answer all questions, even where they may give rise to self-incriminating (link) answers. Transcripts of the public examination may be used as evidence in subsequent civil or criminal proceedings as per the Bankruptcy Act 1966 (Cth) s 81.

The court can order that any of the bankrupt’s associates, business or personal, who can be reasonably presumed to have relevant knowledge of their affairs be compelled to participate in the public examination.

Public examinations generally take place where there is evidence or suspicion that there has been conduct by the bankrupt which was intended to defeat their creditors. Following a public examination, the Registrar may order the payment of debts owing to the bankrupt or handing over of property belonging to the bankrupt. Persons who have possession or control of records relating to the bankrupt’s finances can be ordered to produce them.