Saturday 27 December 2014

Judge is no stranger to controversy

Published 18/04/2014 | 02:30

Judge Martin Nolan
Judge Martin Nolan

The Anglo trial has catapulted Martin Nolan into the same household name judicial stratosphere normally enjoyed by the likes of High Court judges Peter Kelly – the head of Ireland's fast-track Commercial Court – or Paul Carney, the outspoken listing judge of the Central Criminal Court.

At times Judge Nolan, a former garda, presided over the 11-week proceedings with the air of an enthusiastic TV contestant who can't quite believe they have won the prize.

Indeed, the Anglo trial appeared to be assigned to Judge Nolan by default rather than design.

This was in large part because no decision was taken by the judiciary to assign a dedicated judge during the vital, pre-trial phases of what was the largest white-collar criminal trial in the history of the State.

It fell over time to Judge Nolan to deal with preliminary matters, leading to him taking on the case.

The Anglo trial, like several cases Judge Nolan has dealt with before, was not without controversy.

The jury did not see many of the terse exchanges between Judge Nolan and counsel and were blissfully ignorant to a request by all three defence teams for the judge to dismiss the jury.

Judge Nolan is admired by many in the law library for his native cunning, and won widespread praise from judicial colleagues for his recent handling of a lengthy and complex tiger kidnapping trial,

He is used to weathering media storms and public backlashes surrounding some of his decisions, particularly those relating to sentencing in sexual crimes.

Judge Nolan hit the headlines in late 2011 when he jailed a food importer Paul Begley (46) for six years for not paying €1.6m in garlic taxes. The sentence was later reduced to two years on appeal.

Some months later, the judge presided over another case in which a man was given a suspended three-year sentence for assaulting a woman on condition that he paid one of his victims €12,000.

Judge Nolan decided to free Aidan Farrington, who sexually abused two adult nieces, because he believed the publication of his name was punishment enough.

And more than 3,000 signed an online petition calling for his resignation following his decision last year to suspend in full a three-and-a-half year sentence in a child pornography case.

Irish Independent

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