Friday 17 November 2017

OAP with dementia fights jail sentence over €18k judgment

Michelle Smith De Bruin
Michelle Smith De Bruin

Aodhan O'Faolain

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, claims in the High Court that Judge Terrence 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.

Arising out of his failure to pay the full debt, the matter came before Judge Finn in Clonmel District Court last February when he was jailed for three months.

In a High Court challenge to that decision, his counsel Michelle Smith De Bruin, said her client cannot pay the debt.

Counsel said Judge Finn had said, before imposing the three months that he could not take Mr Hyland’s medical condition into account.

In addition to having dementia, Mr Hyland also has other medical conditions including diabetes, which Judge Finn was informed about, counsel said.

 Judge Finn also said the courts might as well give up if they had to take that (health) into consideration.

However, he placed a stay on the prison sentence and adjourned the matter to last Wednesday ( June 19) 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.

Counsel said the action was brought on grounds including that Judge Finn didn’t take Mr Hyland’s medical condition in account, imposed the maximum sentence possible and fixed bail at €18,000 on a civil debt of €18,000.

Counsel said the judge's actions were unfair and unreasonable.

In his action against Judge Finn, Mr Hyland is seeking an order quashing the imprisonment order.

Permission to bring the challenge was granted by Mr Justice George Birmingham who adjourned the matter to October.

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