Thursday 20 June 2019

Judge accused of changing client's will to benefit her own children

Conor Gallagher

A DISTRICT court judge has gone on trial accused of trying to deceive an elderly man into leaving half his estate to her children.

Heather Perrin (60) ran a solicitor's firm before being appointed to the bench and was asked by her long-term friend and client Thomas Davis to help draw up a will for him. Ms Perrin is alleged to have altered the will without his knowledge to benefit her son and daughter.

The alleged deception came to light when a new firm of solicitors took over Ms Perrin's practice. They thought it strange that so much of Mr Davis's will, which was worth about €1m, was left to the Perrin children.

When confronted, Ms Perrin claimed it was a mistake by her secretary but then told gardai that she created the will in line with her client's wishes.

Ms Perrin, of Lambay Court, Malahide, Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to deceptively inducing Mr Davis to bequeath half of his estate to Sybil and Adam Perrin at an address on Fairview Strand, Dublin, on January 22, 2009.

Prosecuting counsel Dominic McGinn told the jury that they would hear from Mr Davis, who is in his early 80s and was a longstanding client of the accused's law firm.

Mr McGinn said in early 2009, Mr Davis decided to draft a will. He instructed Ms Perrin that he wanted to leave €2,000 each to Ms Perrin's children as well as sums of money to various churches.

Mr McGinn said the rest of the estate was to be divided up between Mr Davis's nieces. This included a house in Finglas, €750,000 from the sale of a house in Gorey, Co Wexford, and a large sum of money on deposit with EBS.

Counsel said there would be evidence that Mr Davis signed the will in Ms Perrin's office but did not read it over because the accused was in a rush and he trusted her. Several months later, he received a copy of the will, which complied with his instructions but was unsigned and undated.

Irate

Mr McGinn said after the accused was appointed as a judge in February 2009, the firm that took over her practice sent several letters to Mr Davis querying several legal matters.

He said Mr Davis replied with several increasingly irate letters asking the firm not to contact him again and demanding the return of his legal documents and jewellery, stored in the firm's safe. Mr McGinn said these letters were drafted with the help of Ms Perrin.

The prosecution's first witness was a partner with the firm O'Hanrahan Quaney, which took over Ms Perrin's practice. Juliana Quaney gave evidence of the correspondence between the firm and Mr Davis, in which Mr Davis said Ms Perrin had served them well over the years.

The letters from Mr Davis demanded the return of his will and other legal documents and said someone would be coming to collect them. His letters also demanded the firm not contact them further and threatened to report them to the Law Society for opening letters addressed to him.

Ms Quaney said a man named Tom Waller called to the firm several times attempting to pick up the Davis's possessions. She said she refused to hand them over to him and was "very concerned" as Mr Waller said he did not know Mr Davis. The State says it will present evidence that Ms Perrin was instructing Mr Waller to pick up the items.

Ms Quaney said after Mr Waller's last attempt to collect the Davis documents, she opened the safe and looked at the will.

She was surprised to find that half of the residual estate was left to the Perrin children and wrote to Mr Davis questioning this.

Mr Davis then came into the firm and was shown the will. He said it did not match his instructions and showed the copy of the will he received.

That evening he drafted a new will matching his original wishes.

Mr McGinn said that when contacted by the Davis family, Ms Perrin said it must have been a mistake by her secretary.

When quizzed by the gardai, she said she drafted the will according to Mr Davis's wishes. She said he wished his estate split between her children and his nieces because he was unhappy with how his nieces had squandered money in the past.

The trial continues on Monday before Judge Mary Ellen Ring and a jury.

Irish Independent

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