CATHERINE Nevin has lost her bid to prevent evidence from her trial being used in a civil action aimed at blocking her from inheriting any of his assets.
In his judgment today, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns held that by deeming Mrs Nevin's conviction "as completely inadmissible" in the civil proceedings would be "contrary to common sense and offend any reasonable person's sense of justice and fairness."
The ruling means that the civil action will not be an effective re-run of Mrs Nevin's trial at Central Criminal Court in 2000. After 42 days a jury found her guilty of murdering Tom Nevin at their pub, Jack White’s Inn near Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow, on March 19, 1996.
The Judge was asked to rule on a preliminary issue raised by Tom Nevin's brother Patrick and sister Margaret Lavelle, who are the administrators of his estate, on a preliminary issue as part of their action aimed at fully disinheriting her and seeking damages for wrongful death.
Mrs Nevin (61), who is known as the Black Widow, was not in court yesterday and has always denied any involvement in the murder, claimed evidence of her conviction should not be used in the civil action.
In a counter-claim, she contends she is entitled to her late husband's assets, or part of them, by virtue of survivorship and the laws of intestacy.
Tom Nevin did not leave a will. His assets include Jack White’s pub, which was jointly owned, and sold by his widow in late 1997 for IR £620,000, two Dublin properties, a Irish Life Assurance policy for almost IR£78,000 and cash of IR£197,000.
The issue arose out of an 1943 English case which found evidence from a criminal trial could not be admitted in a civil case The law was changed in England in 1968 to allow such evidence be admitted. However there had been no such law here, and the legal point had yet to be determined by the Irish Courts.
Patrick Nevin, Tynagh, Loughrea, Co Galway, and Margaret Lavelle, Ballinagran, Craughwell, had argued that it would be illogical and an abuse of process if evidence of Mrs Nevin's conviction by a jury could not be used in the civil action.
Mrs Nevin argued that if the evidence was admissible, it would be "virtually impossible" for her to prove her innocence. In an affidavit, Mrs Nevin said she is quite happy to come to court and give evidence that she had nothing to do with Tom Nevin's death.
In what was a lengthy and detailed judgment Mr Justice Kearns said he was satisfied that evidence of Mrs Nevin's conviction was admissible in the civil action. He said the case raised "an anomaly" in the 1965 succession Act, which he said should be amended.
However, it was accepted that evidence of her conviction was "not conclusive of her guilt" and it remained opened to her in the civil proceedings to argue that she did not murder her husband and that she should not have been convicted.
It was "still open to Catherine Nevin to contend" in the civil proceedings that "she did not murder her husband and that she shouldn't have been convicted."
The Judge also dismissed an argument that the civil case should not be allowed proceed until Mrs Nevin's criminal proceedings were completed. A considerable amount of time had elapsed since Mrs Nevin's conviction, due to fully exercising her rights under the criminal law system.
The Judge said that it would be unfair to the administrators of the estate if the civil proceedings did not now go ahead.
Mrs Nevin was convicted in 2000 of murdering Tom Nevin at their pub, Jack White’s Inn near Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow, on March 19, 1996. She was jailed for life on that charge and also received a seven-year sentence for soliciting three men to kill her husband in 1989 and 1990.
Her appeal against conviction was dismissed in 2003. A subsequent application to have her conviction deemed a miscarriage of justice was dismissed in 2010.
Arising out of her miscarriage of justice application Mrs Nevin is seeking to have what she claims is a point of exceptional public important heard by the Supreme Court.