KILLER Catherine Nevin's conviction for the murder of her husband Tom can be used in a civil action aimed at stopping her from inheriting any of his assets.
President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns held that 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, as part of their action aimed at fully disinheriting her and seeking damages for wrongful death.
Mrs Nevin (61), who 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. 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; an Irish Life Assurance policy for almost IR£78,000; and cash of IR£197,000.
The issue arose out of a 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. However there had been no such law here.
Patrick Nevin, Tynagh, Loughrea, Co Galway, and Mr Lavelle, Ballinagran, Craughwell, argued 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 was quite happy to come to court and give evidence that she had nothing to do with Tom Nevin's death.
Mr Justice Kearns said he was satisfied that evidence of Mrs Nevin's conviction was admissible in the civil action.
However, it was accepted that evidence of her conviction was "not conclusive of her guilt" and it remained open to her in the civil proceedings to argue that she did not murder her husband and should not 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 complete.
Mrs Nevin was convicted in 2000 of murdering Tom Nevin. She was jailed for life 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. An application to have her conviction deemed a miscarriage of justice was dismissed in 2010. Arising out of that application, she is seeking to have a point of exceptional public importance heard by the Supreme Court.