independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

The rise and fall of Heather Perrin: from the Girls Brigade's kindness to betraying the trust of elderly friend

THE motto of the Girls Brigade, the Christian uniformed organisation, is seek, serve and follow Christ.

Its aim is "to help girls become followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and through self control, reverence and a sense of responsibility to find true enrichment of life".

Last night the Girls Brigade drew a veil of silence over the conviction of one of its most prominent members, District Court judge Heather Perrin who once served as director of the Girls Brigade International Council.

Perrin (nee Thornburgh) was found guilty by a unanimous jury of deceiving an elderly friend into bequeathing half of his €1m estate to her two children.

A solicitor who ran a small practice in north Dublin, Perrin was appointed to the District Court in 2009 just a month after tricking octogenarian Thomas Davis into leaving vast sums of money to her children.

Defence

Her defence team suggested that Mr Davis suffered memory problems and had somehow "forgotten" leaving half his estate to the Perrin children.

In just under four hours, the jury decided that the octogenarian – who left €2,000 each in his will for Perrin's children after the discovery that he had been tricked – was not suffering memory loss.

Separate charges of deception relating to the will of Mr Davis's wife, Ada, were dropped before Perrin's seven-day trial because her mental state had declined to the point where she was unable to give evidence against their former trusted solicitor.

The conviction of Perrin, who was heavily involved in the Girls Brigade with Ada Davis, has sent shockwaves through the bench.

It has also shocked the close-knit Anglican parishes of Malahide and Portmarnock as well as the United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough, where Perrin was a leading light in Christian organisations such as the Girls Brigade.

Although a relatively recent appointment, in her short tenure Perrin has made legal history as the first judge in the history of the State to be convicted of a serious crime, one that could attract a maximum five-year jail term.

Solicitor

Perrin qualified as a solicitor in 1983 and since 1994 has been a sole practitioner with experience in conveyancing, litigation, family law, probate and criminal work.

Her elevation to the bench in 2009 was attributed at the time to her credentials as a hard-working, northside Protestant.

Now her reputation lies in ruins.

Irish Independent

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