A RETIRED company director at the centre of a landmark €4.7m sex abuse award may be suffering from dementia, the High Court heard today.
It means there are now question marks over whether Joseph Carrick's victims will be able to recover the €4.7m awards from him. The court had also imposed a freezing order preventing him from reducing his assets and bank accounts below €5m.
An application may be made to set aside the award, Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne was told today.
Last November, Jacqueline O'Toole, who was raped and became pregnant by Carrick when she was a schoolgirl, was awarded a record €4m in damages by a High Court jury.
Her cousin and best friend Geraldine Nolan, who was also raped and abused by him was awarded €700,000 in damages by a separate jury.
Mr Carrick (72), Carysfort Woods, Blackrock, Co Dublin, did not contest the case, had discharged his lawyers saying he was unable to pay them, and the award was made in his absence.
Folllowing the award and freezing order on his assets, he got new lawyers and yesterday Ms Justice Dunne was told by John Rogers SC, for Mr Carrick, that they had received instructions that there were serious questions about his client's mental capacity.
Mr Rogers said they wished to file an affidavit by a psychiatrist who had examined him and his new solicitor had to make other inquiries including an issue over the signing over of Mr Carrick's power of attorney some years ago. This occurred when he was suffering from cancer and there were question marks over his survival.
"He (his solicitor) is now in a very difficult position where he has a client who appears to be suffering from dementia and appeared to be suffering from it at the time of the trial," Mr Rogers said.
There was provision in the court rules to set aside an award where a person has not appeared to defend the case, Mr Rogers said.
Rudi Newman BL, for the two women, said he was extremely surprised at this development because, when Mr Carrick discharged his original solicitors, there was no mention of mental capacity, only that he could not afford to pay them.
His clients had got a judgment for the total €4.7m award against Mr Carrick but "no effort has been made to pay a cent of it" or to engage with his side.
The court had allowed €500 per week to be paid out of Mr Carrick's frozen assets to pay him living expenses yet "my clients are not getting any money," he said.
His clients were also seeking an attachment and committal too prison order against Mr Carrick over his failure to discharge the award, the court heard.
Ms Justice Dunne, who also expressed surprise at the development, said however it was not an unusual state of affairs that even where judgments are made, there is no guarantee that the money can be recovered.
There now was a problem that if someone was suffering from dementia whether they could make a decision in relation to proceedings, she said.
The question of setting aside the judgment could not be considered at this stage but it would be appropriate for all issues to be dealt with at a full hearing.
She also said there may be an application to have medical experts for the two women examine Mr Carrick.
She adjourned the matter for two weeks.