Saturday 16 December 2017

High Court Judge refused to step aside from family law case despite 'improper interference'

Dearbhail McDonald, Legal Editor

THE mother at the centre of a fraught family law battle admitted to a High Court judge that she had contacted a Dail Deputy during her court battle with her now ex husband.

Last Monday Former Justice Minister Mary O’Rourke identified herself as the Deputy who had met with the woman.

But the former Fianna Fail TD categorically denied making any representations to a Circuit Court judge on her constituent’s behalf and described the controversy as “a nightmare”.

And earlier this week, following a judicial inquiry, Circuit Court Judge Des Hogan apologised for having a “casual conversation” with High Court Judge Mr Justice Henry Abbott about a ruling in a family law case.

But Judge Hogan denied he was solicited or requested by a politician or any other party to intervene in the case and has rejected suggestions he “tried to meddle in a family case”.

In a ruling released last night, Mr Justice Abbott said he refused to step aside from the case despite what he described as “the entirely improper interference of mother via political representative and judge”.

Judge Abbott said he asked the mother whether she asked a Dail Deputy to make inquiries for her in relation to the matter from the judge, and “that that Dail Deputy sought the services of a Circuit Court judge to ask me was it a fact that [a child of the marriage] had been sent away to the primary care of the father”.

Judge Abbott said that the mother agreed that she had approached the Dail Deputy - and apologised on the basis that it was at a time when she had no legal representation.

However Judge Abbott did not seek an account from Ms O’Rourke who denies she apporoached the Circuit Court judge.

The controversy arose after it emerged that Judge Hogan met Judge Abbott in the yard of the Four Courts building on July 21, 2010.

This was only days after Judge Abbott delivered a ruling in the family law case.

In a “casual conversation” lasting less than a minute, Judge Hogan said he asked Judge Abbott whether it was true that he had made a particular order in the case. Judge Abbott took exception to the question.

The underlying legal action is between the couple who were married abroad in 1990 and had three children in 1995, 1998 and 2000.

According to an earlier ruling, the couple returned to Ireland in the mid-1990s and the mother left the family home with the three children in March 2002.

A “fraught and highly contested” legal battle between the parents ensued.

In a High Court ruling in 2011, Judge Abbott said that the history of the marriage was “punctuated, if not dominated” by an extraordinary number of court appearances.

The parents fought over issues such as access, holidays, parent teacher meetings, homework and their children’s passports.

There were allegations of violence levelled at but denied by the father, and a number of experts reported to the court that the mother was “guilty of alienating tendencies”.

Irish Independent

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