Judge faces up to five years in jail for deception of elderly friend
Published 21/11/2012 | 05:00
THE first judge in the history of the State convicted of a serious crime faces the threat of impeachment under new laws set up following the Judge Brian Curtin controversy.
Heather Perrin could spend up to five years in prison after being convicted of attempting to deceive an elderly friend and client out of half of his €1m estate.
The District Court judge (60), who was appointed to the bench in 2009, wept as she was led from the dock by her family and lawyers following the unanimous jury verdict.
The seven-day trial at Dublin's Circuit Criminal Court heard that how the former solicitor tricked her victim, octogenarian Thomas Davis.
He bequeathed half his estate, worth about €1m, to her two children.
Remanded on bail, Perrin was ordered to surrender her passport to Malahide garda station.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he would not comment on the unprecedented conviction until trial Judge Mary Ellen Ring passes sentence next Wednesday.
But if the judge does not resign, politicians will come under pressure to seek her removal.
Perrin, a former director of the Girls Brigade International Council, the Christian uniformed organisation, maintained her innocence throughout the high-profile trial.
She has been on long-term sick leave from the bench and has not yet served the minimum five-year period required before she can draw down part of her pension.
Perrin ran a solicitor's practice in North Dublin before being appointed a District Court judge in February 2009, a month after she carried out the scam.
Perrin, of Lambay Court, Malahide, had pleaded not guilty to deceptively inducing Mr Davis to bequeath half of his estate to Sybil and Adam Perrin at her office on Fairview Strand on January 22, 2009.
Prosecutor Dominic McGinn said Perrin fought the case using "lies, half-truths and deceptions".
When the scam first came to light she claimed it was a mistake by her secretary, but later claimed she had drafted the will in line with Mr Davis's instructions.
Her defence team suggested that Mr Davis suffered memory problems and had forgotten leaving half his estate to the Perrin children.
But the prosecution produced medical evidence that Mr Davis had a good mental capacity and no memory problems.
Charges of deception relating to the will of Mr Davis's wife, Ada, were dropped before the trial because her mental state has declined to the point where she is unable to give evidence.
The trial heard that Thomas and Ada Davis decided to make their wills with Perrin before she was officially made a judge.
Mr Davis gave instructions to leave €2,000 each to various churches, €2,000 each to Perrin's children and split everything else between his two nieces.
When he went into her office to sign the will, the meeting was rushed – as Perrin said she had urgent business to attend to.
He was not given an opportunity to read the will nor was it read over to him. He said he didn't have a problem with this as he trusted Perrin.
The trial heard that the will Mr Davis had signed actually split his estate between his nieces and Perrin's two children.
When a new law firm took over Perrin's practice they wrote to the couple querying several irregularities in their legal documents. Mrs Davis asked Perrin for her help in dealing with the firm.
The judge drafted several increasingly irate letters to the firm demanding they stop contacting the Davis couple.
Eventually the firm examined Mr Davis's will and noticed the bequest to the Perrin children.