Wednesday 22 November 2017

Woman who believes sheep are 'descended from Jacob' banned from taking any new legal actions

The Four Courts, Dublin
The Four Courts, Dublin Newsdesk Newsdesk

A WOMAN who has issued 24 separate legal cases since 1999 has been banned from taking any new actions against various State parties or judges in the High Court unless she gets permission from that court.

Donna Sfar, with an address in Co Louth and representing herself, was also ordered to pay the substantial legal costs incurred by the State parties of successfully defending her latest cases over four days.

In those two cases, brought arising from the seizure of sheep and pigs from Ms Sfar for animal welfare reasons, her claims included alleged breach of her religious rights based on claims sheep are descended from Jacob and therefore "sacred" creatures of religious significance, Mr Justice Michael Twomey said.

If he did not grant costs to the Minister for Agriculture and State against Ms Sfar, that would send a message to other lay litigants there were "little or no financial consequences" for losing cases against the State.

There are "very significant financial consequences" for the State as it does not have an "endless supply" of funds to pay lawyers to defend "baseless" legal claim against it, he said.

The use of public funds to defend "multiple" actions by Ms Sfar has resulted in "enormous expense" and diversion of resources from other areas and he had "little hesitation" in awarding costs against her.

In the judicial reviews before him, the judge said he had heard evidence of "grave suffering" to animals on Ms Sfar's property and he had ruled in June 2016 Ms Sfar had no grounds for challenging their seizure.

Since his judgment, Ms Sfar had sent emails to the Chief State Solicitor's office stating, inter alia, she would "fight to the death" for return of the animals and alleging sheep seized from her property were "sacred" and had been "murdered".

It seemed clear, regardless of what decision any court makes, Ms Sfar was "fully convinced she is right and anyone who disagrees with her about the welfare of her animals is wrong".

It was clear Ms Sfar desired to pursue her claims "no matter what". She had also referred to having a law degree and believing court is her "vocation" and she contributes to public law by her litigation.

She has had seven hearings arising from the mistreatment of her animals and had instituted four sets of judicial review proceedings, he noted. She has issued 24 judicial reviews since 1999.

All of this litigation essentially related to the "same set of facts" and was imposing a "severe workload" on the Department.

Her actions in this case, and since he gave judgment, were "sufficiently vexatious" to justify restraining her taking further cases against the Minister for Agriculture or State without prior leave of the High Court. Noting other proceedings by her making various claims against various judges, he directed she would also need leave of the court to sue judges.

The judge noted, since his June 2016 judgment, Ms Sfar was convicted in July 2016 in the District Court of offences contrary to the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 and was also barred from keeping pigs and sheep.

She has both appealed and brought judicial review proceedings over those convictions and his order preventing her taking new proceedings without court permission did not affect those cases, he stressed.

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