Retiring judge has 'saved lives' with hard line on drink-driving
A SENIOR garda yesterday said a judge's hardline approach to sentences for drink-driving had saved lives on Irish roads.
Supt Pat McCarthy claimed that the tough approach to offences such as drink-driving, violent assaults and robberies by outspoken judge Michael Pattwell (66) had had a dramatic impact on the community which he served.
The comments came as the District Court judge retired yesterday after 21 years on the bench, the past decade of which was spent in north Cork.
Judge Pattwell, a father of eight, was appointed to the District Court in 1990 after he had worked as a Customs and Excise officer, a court clerk and then a solicitor.
He successfully fought cancer and earlier this year published his first book of poetry.
He ranks as one of Ireland's most controversial judges -- at one time insisting that most drink-driving convictions merited a custodial sentence.
The judge also hit the headlines a decade ago when solicitors briefly refused to practise before him after he held a female solicitor in contempt and she was taken into garda custody for a short time.
Yesterday, Supt McCarthy said the judge left a remarkable legacy in north Cork.
"The greatest legacy that any judge can have (left) is that the community that he has served is a better place," he said.
"I can say that without contradiction. Your hardline approach to certain kinds of offences paid off.
"The hardline approach (to drink-driving) paid dividends and I have no doubt that you have saved lives on our roads," Supt McCarthy said.
"You have certainly made north Cork a safer place to live," he added.
The garda said that such was the judge's no-nonsense reputation for tough sentences that when two shoplifters were arrested in Fermoy, one attacked the other after learning that the town fell within Judge Pattwell's jurisdiction.
Insp Tony O'Sullivan said the judge's refusal to tolerate violent crime had an enormous impact on the locality.
"There is one person responsible for cleaning up the streets of north Cork and that is Judge Pattwell," he added.
Senior solicitors also said that while the judge's sentencing policy was considered hard-line, it was a regime that was highly respected.
Tributes to the retiring judge were led yesterday by fellow judges Gerard Haughton, Terence Finn and Uinsinn MacGruairc (retired).
Judge Pattwell said that he had been very lucky throughout his 66 years -- and being appointed a judge ranked as one of the greatest honours of his life.