independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Perrin proves no one is above the law

HEATHER Perrin had already made legal history when she became the first member of the judiciary to be convicted of a serious offence.

Now the 61-year-old former solicitor carries the extraordinary distinction of being the first to be sent to jail.

What makes Perrin's crime of deception more galling is that she attempted (as a solicitor) to dupe an elderly client, one of her closest friends, after she had been nominated by the Government to serve on the bench.

Lawyers, like many others such as hospital consultants and senior bankers, are a privileged class.

Barristers and solicitors enjoy a degree of public confidence that other professions do not because of the implicit, at times blind trust placed in them by their clients and the courts.

And we judge the legal profession, including judges, by higher standards because of the extraordinary power they can wield over the minutiae of our lives, including our liberty.

The appalling breach of trust by Heather Perrin extends far beyond the now destroyed relationship between her and the elderly friend forced to defend allegations that he was suffering from memory loss when half of his estate was left to her children.

It highlights the need for adequate, proportionate regulation of the legal and other sectors.

It also sends a much-needed message that no one, not even judges, is above the law.

There has been much post-Celtic Tiger hand wringing about fraud and white-collar crime and the threat it poses to society.

But that political rhetoric has not been matched by the deployment of state resources such as was seen in the wake of the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin which resulted in the establishment of the multi-agency Criminal Assets Bureau.

The conviction of Heather Perrin is welcome: the case for prosecuting more white-collar criminals is overwhelming.

Irish Independent

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