Wednesday 19 September 2018

Supreme Court to hear case aimed at disinheriting 'Black Widow' Catherine Nevin

Catherine Nevin case
Catherine Nevin case

Aodhan O'Faolain

A Supreme Court appeal with implications for proceedings aimed at disinheriting the late Catherine Nevin has been fixed for July.

Following Ms Nevin's death last month, the executrix of her estate is prepared to continue Ms Nevin's appeal concerning whether her conviction for the murder of her husband Tom can be used in the case brought against her by his brother and sister, the Chief Justice, Mr Justice Frank Clarke, was told on Tuesday.

Before her death, the Supreme Court had agreed to hear an appeal by Ms Nevin over a finding her conviction could be used in the Nevin siblings' civil proceedings aimed at disinheriting her and claiming damages for wrongful death.

Those proceedings, if successful, could affect the extent of the estate of the late Ms Nevin, who has left a will.

After the Chief Justice was told on Tuesday an application will be formally made for the executrix to replace Ms Nevin, he  provisionally fixed the Supreme Court appeal for hearing on July 1st.

Catherine Nevin was jailed in 2000 after being convicted of her husband’s murder at their pub, Jack White’s Inn near Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow, in March 1996. She lost appeals over her conviction along with a bid to have it declared a miscarriage of justice.

Tom Nevin died without leaving a will. His assets included the pub, jointly owned with his wife which she sold in late 1997 for IR£620,000, two Dublin properties, a IR£78,000 insurance policy and cash of IR£197,000.

Patrick Nevin, Tynagh, Loughrea, Co Galway, and Margaret Lavelle, Ballinaghran, Craughwell, later brought a preliminary application to the High Court seeking to admit evidence of Ms Nevin’s conviction as part of their disinheritance case. Ms Nevin denied her husband’s murder and claimed she was entitled to his assets, or part of them, by virtue of survivorship and the laws of intestacy.

The High Court in 2013 determined, as a preliminary issue, her murder conviction was admissible in civil proceedings as “prima facie evidence of the fact that she committed such murder”.

The Court of Appeal iin 2017 held the High Court had correctly decided admission of the conviction involved an exception to the rule against admitting hearsay evidence which was justified on grounds of necessity and relevance.

However, Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan said the High Court finding that proof of a conviction for murder with all appeals exhausted does not of itself meet the proofs required by Section 120(1) of the Succession Act 1965 dealing with disinheritance should not be regarded as a "final" determination.

The proper construction of Section 120 (1) had to be decided at a full High Court hearing, she said. She noted a difference in the wording of Section 120 (1) and Section 120 (4) of the 1965 Act.

Section 120 (1) provides a sane person who “has been guilty” of murder..shall be precluded from taking any share in the estate of that other but Section 120 (4) provides a person “found guilty” of an offence against the deceased punishable by imprisonment for a maximum period of at least two years shall be precluded taking any share in the estate as a legal right.

If it is decided proof of Ms Nevin’s murder conviction does not meet the requirements of Section 120 (1), the question whether the High Court correctly decided the conviction was admissible as prima facie evidence of the fact Ms Nevin was guilty of the murder may become relevant, the COA said.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal over the COA decision on the basis the issues raised are of general public importance and the relevant law and procedure requires clarification.

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