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Friday 19 September 2014

'Brains of the bench' Hogan has been a champion for the rights of citizens

Published 28/07/2013 | 05:00

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MR Justice Gerard Hogan has often been described as the "brains of the bench".

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The High Court judge is regarded as a legal academic, having lectured constitutional law in Trinity College Dublin while actively practising as a barrister. He has authored several books including the recently published Origins of the Irish Constitution 1928-1941.

He has a doctorate in law and was educated at University College Dublin and King's Inns before he was called to the Bar in 1984. He was made a senior counsel in 1997.

Since his appointment as a judge to the High Court in 2010, the constitutional scholar has assiduously preserved the rights of individuals.

He has dealt with some extremely high-profile – and complex – legal cases.

In the early hours of December 27, 2010, he was forced to hold a High Court hearing at his home where he ordered the administration of a blood transfusion to a desperately ill baby boy.

Judge Hogan held that he had jurisdiction to override the religious beliefs of the child's parents where the child's life was in imminent danger.

Late last year, he was selected, along with two other High Court judges, to hear the case of MS sufferer Marie Fleming in what became known as the 'right to die' case.

More recently, he overturned the appointment of a receiver to a popular Dublin pub, declaring that the demands placed on a businessman by his banks were unrealistic and unreasonable. It was one of the few times the appointment of a receiver has been overturned by a judge since the recession began.

Last month, he caused a stir among Ireland's much-maligned planning authorities when he overturned an order to demolish a house built without planning permission. In his ruling, he said the chalet, where a woman lived with her two children, was "entirely hidden away from view" and would not detract from the glorious vistas of the Wicklow Mountains.

He has awarded damages to citizens for "deplorable" treatment by debt collectors and has punished banks for not adhering to Central Bank Codes of Conduct.

Judge Hogan has also ruled that members of the public are entitled to view court documents, a privilege enjoyed by citizens in every common law country except Ireland.

In his time as a barrister, he frequently represented independent advocates for human rights and civil liberties, who still hold him in high regard. But it is his knowledge of the Constitution for which he is most renowned.

In a speech last year, Judge Hogan told the Constitutional Convention that criticisms directed at the bulk of Bunreacht na hEireann (the Constitution) were "all-too-typically Irish" characteristics of negativity, a lack of self-belief and civic pride in our own institutions and achievements.

He told the forum that much of the criticism seemed directed at the proposition that many of its provisions were unique and special to Ireland.

However, he disputed this view and said the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution were all protected in very similar fashion and language in other parts of Europe.

The High Court judge hoped that the "dignity and freedom of the individual" as reflected in the Constitution would be reinvigorated by the convention and he hoped the Irish people would renew their commitment to the protection of human rights.

Ruaidhri Giblin

Sunday Independent

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