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Thursday 30 March 2017

Clare Daly brands judge who told her to 'stand up straight' as 'ludicrous'

Clare Daly at Leinster House. Photo: Tom Burke
Clare Daly at Leinster House. Photo: Tom Burke
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Independent TD Clare Daly has launched an unprecedented attack on the judge who issued a bench warrant for her when she failed to appear before a court hearing on a speeding charge.

In her extraordinary comments, Ms Daly labelled Judge Desmond Zaidan’s decision to issue a warrant as “ludicrous” and claimed he was “causing huge problems with regard to the administration of justice”.

She claimed the judge singled her out for a bench warrant after she left Naas District Court three weeks ago.

Earlier on Wednesday, she was fined €300 for the speeding offence and was accused of showing a “total disrespect for the law” by Mr Justice Zaidan.

The judge said he issued the warrant because Ms Daly’s solicitor did not offer a reason for his client leaving the court.

He also accused her of abusing the court process by changing her plea to not guilty while “not having the courtesy to tell the courts why”.

During the hearing Mr Justice Zaidan told the TD to "stand up straight".

On Wednesday night, during a Dáil debate on judicial appointment, Ms Daly then attacked Mr Justice Zaidan saying her case was an example of the “outrageous decisions” taking place in the courts

Ms Daly said she received a summons to appear before Naas District Court for “allegedly” breaking the speed limit.

She said the case was not down for a full hearing the day she appeared and was listed as 188 on the court schedule.

Ms Daly said the judge is known for “religiously” hearing cases in the order they appear on his list. On the day, she watched the cases being heard until lunch time before instructing her solicitor and leaving.

She claimed the judge reached the 175th case by the end of the sitting but then “jumped” to her case and called her solicitor before the court to explain his client’s absence.

“I watched how the judge had dealt with the cases there before me, saw cases were people had not turned up on similar charges, did not have a solicitor on similar charges and no bench warrants or any proceedings were dealt with,” she said.

“I had to listen to the same judge lecturing me about respecting his court, not giving me an opportunity to say anything about his irrational decision,” she added.

Yesterday, when her case was called, her solicitor Cairbre Finan told Judge Zaidan that his client wished to convey to the court that there was no insult intended or implied in her actions on the last occasion.

He also said Ms Daly wished to change her plea to not guilty, but Judge Zaidan said he would require a reason for this change before he would allow it.

“Today the case is listed for sentencing,” he said.

When the case was called again, Mr Finan said the position remained that Ms Daly wished to plead not guilty, and he admitted he would have to excuse himself from the case following the change of instructions.

Judge Zaidan reiterated that the case was in for sentencing and refused to allow her to change her plea.

Inspector Patsy Glennon told the court that on January 1 last, Ms Daly’s car was detected travelling at 59kmh in a 50kmh zone at Ballymany, Newbridge.

Insp Glennon said the defendant has two previous convictions dating back to the same incident when she breached the perimeter of Shannon Airport.

Ms Daly interrupted court proceedings to say that it was “very unfair on Mr Finan” when the judge invited him to address the evidence that had been presented against her.

The judge told her she could have her say, and instructed her to “stand up straight”.

He outlined the history of the case and the issuing of the bench warrant which, he clarified, was because Mr Finan had been unable to give a reason for why she had left.

He reiterated that he thought it was disrespectful to the court.

He also took issue with comments which he said were attributed to her in the Irish Times, to the effect that the bench warrant was “rubbish”.

“If every citizen took that view, one would have to seriously question where it leaves the administration of justice,” he said.

Mr Finan said his client’s comments referred to media reaction to the bench warrant rather than the court’s action.

He added that she had not spoken to the Irish Times.

Judge Zaidan suggested that “if your client thinks the Irish Times has misquoted her”, she should take it up with the paper.

He described Ms Daly’s attempt to change her plea as a “total abuse of court process” when she “didn’t have the common courtesy to tell the court why”.

Ms Daly said she hoped she would have an opportunity to speak, to respond to “several inaccuracies in what you’ve said”.

The judge said that she would have, although once he had finalised his comments by fining her he closed the case and called for the next case.

Recognisances were fixed at a cash bond of €100 should Ms Daly decide to appeal.

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