Thursday 26 April 2018

Gail O'Rorke: 'My lawyers warned me jail was the likely outcome'

Gail O'Rorke leaving Dublin District Court
Gail O'Rorke leaving Dublin District Court Newsdesk Newsdesk

Gail O’Rorke, the first person in Ireland to be tried and acquitted of assisting in a suicide, said she had prepared herself to go to jail after her lawyers told her to expect the worst.

Ms O’Rorke, who was charged with assisting the suicide of her close friend Bernadette Forde in Dublin between 10 March 2011 and 6 June 2011, said: “Our counsel genuinely thought prison was very likely.”

“They never once lied to us, they said we were dealing with the unknown – that this case would be a precedent,” she said.

Read More: 'Justice done' as jury acquits carer Gail O'Rorke of assisting sick woman's suicide

“One of them even told me that if I’d been facing a charge of being found with €100,000 worth of cocaine, he’d be able to give me a clear picture of what would happen.

“They warned me there was a good chance I’d go to jail, and that’s exactly what I thought was going to happen when the jury came back in at the end of the trial.”

Speaking to Miriam O’Callaghan on Radio One this morning, Ms O’Rorke detailed the exact moment when she was found not guilty of assisting Ms Forde take her own life.

She was accused of making arrangements for Ms Forde, an MS-sufferer, to travel to Dignitas in Zurich, a plan that was thwarted when their travel agent alerted gardai.

Read More:

“When the judge dismissed two of the charges, we were sure that we’d have a verdict on Monday but then the jury didn’t come back until half an hour before the court closed on Tuesday afternoon.

“When I saw them come in, with all their heads looking at the floor, I lost my composure. I was sure they had found me guilty. My husband Barry stood up and shielded me from the court until the judge came in.

“You think that the foreman of the jury will stand up and read out the verdict but that’s not what happens. A little piece of paper gets passed on and someone else reads it out.

“It was only a few seconds but that moment seemed to go on for an eternity.

“I was sure that the piece of paper would say guilty and I just watched the person’s mouth as they read it out. When she first said ‘Not…’ the court exploded.”

Read More: 'Mum wept when she heard Bernadette Forde was blocked from going to Dignitas' - Marie Fleming's daughter

She said it was frightening being in the dock “on your own where people go up to discuss what you did out of love for a friend."

Ms O’Rorke said she would be forever “grateful” to her legal counsel, and to the Gardai, who she praised as treating her “with nothing but respect throughout the last two years.”

Read More: ‘I just can’t keep going with everything’ - Bernadette Forde’s last letter

“When I first got the call saying I’d be charged, I collapsed on the floor. I was devastated. The gardai, who did everything they could to make this journey bearable, told me they had recommended that the case against me be dropped.

“That it was the DPP who had decided to push ahead with it.”

“It took them two hours to get me up off the floor,” she added.

Ms O'Rorke started as a cleaner for Ms Forde, a former human resources manager with Guinness, but they became close friends over the years.

The accused became a carer for Ms Forde as her disease, aggravated by a 2008 car accident which left Ms Forde wheelchair bound, progressed.

Ms O'Rorke had booked three flights to Zurich for herself, Ms Forde and Ms Forde's nephew, Bernard Forde Monaghan.

Ms Forde had previously been given "the green light" by Dignitas and it had agreed to help her end her life at one of its clinics.

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