President queries if murder conviction can block Nevin's inheritance claims
Black Widow case in high court
The President of the High Court is considering whether Catherine Nevin's conviction for murdering her husband can be used to block her from inheriting his estate.
Tom Nevin's brother and sister have asked High Court President Nicholas Kearns to rule on a preliminary issue that evidence at Mrs. Nevin's trial, and her conviction, are admissible as part of their action to fully disinherit her as well as for damages against her over his wrongful death.
Mrs. Nevin (61), who became known as the Black Widow during her trial, has always denied involvement in the murder and claims that evidence of her conviction should not be used in the civil action.
Mr. Justice Kearns denied a request which would have allowed Nevin appear in court for the hearing.
In a counter-claim, Mrs. Nevin seeks declarations that she is entitled to her late husband's assets, or part of them, by virtue of survivorship and the laws of intestacy.
George Brady, for Patrick Nevin, of Tynagh, Loughrea; and Margaret Lavelle, of Ballinagran, Craughwell, both Co. Galway, said that if the court allowed the evidence of Mrs. Nevin's conviction to be used, the onus was on her to prove she did not murder her husband.
Counsel said 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.
In addition, the Court of Criminal Appeal had dismissed both her appeal against conviction in 2003, and her bid to have her conviction declared a miscarriage of justice in 2010.
Solicitor Anne Fitzgibbon for Mrs. Nevin argued it would be incorrect to admit evidence of the conviction in the civil action.
The 'traditional rule' was that evidence of a criminal conviction cannot be used in a civil action, Ms. Fitzgibbon said.
In response to the judge, Ms. Fitzgibbon said if the conviction was admissible in the civil action it would be 'virtually impossible' for Mrs. Nevin to prove her innocence. She also said that 61-year-old Nevin is trying to appeal her case to the Supreme Court on a point of law of exceptional public importance and papers filed with the Court of Criminal Appeal last week.
The court also heard that in an affidavit Mrs. Nevin said she was quite happy to come to court and give evidence.
Mr. Nevin's assets include: Jack White's Inn near Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow, 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. He did not leave a will.
In 2000, Catherine Nevin was convicted of murdering her husband Tom Nevin at their pub, Jack White's Inn, on March 19, 1996.
She was jailed for life on that charge and also received a seven-year sentence for soliciting three men to kill her husband in 1989 and 1990. Following the conclusion of submissions from both sides, Mr. Justice Kearns reserved his judgement.