Dementia sufferer (77) challenges jail term for unpaid debt
A PENSIONER with health problems is challenging a District Court judge's decision to jail him for three months for failing to pay up following an €18,000 judgment against him.
John Hyland (77), who has moderate-to-severe dementia, claimed in the High Court that Judge Terence Finn's decision to jail him was unreasonable, disproportionate and irrational.
In 2011, a judgment for just over €22,000 was obtained at the Circuit Court against Mr Hyland, of Clonmore, Cashel, Co Tipperary, by another man to whom he owed the debt.
An order was subsequently obtained, requiring him to pay the debt in instalments. He paid off approximately €4,000.
The matter came before Judge Finn at Clonmel District Court in February, when Mr Hyland was jailed for three months.
However, he placed a stay on the prison sentence and adjourned the matter to last Wednesday, when he reaffirmed the order jailing him.
Mr Hyland then brought a High Court challenge to that order and remains out of prison pending determination of the case.
In a High Court challenge to that decision, his counsel, the former swimmer Michelle Smith De Bruin, said her client could not pay the debt.
Counsel said the action had been brought on grounds including that Judge Finn had not taken Mr Hyland's medical condition into account, had imposed the maximum sentence possible and had fixed bail at €18,000 on a civil debt of €18,000.
She said the judge's actions were unfair and unreasonable.
In his action, Mr Hyland is seeking an order quashing the imprisonment. Permission to bring the challenge was granted by Mr Justice George Birmingham, who adjourned the matter to October.