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Friday 23 February 2018

Killers face losing right to inherit property owned with their spouse

Eamon Lillis
Eamon Lillis
Catherine Nevin

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

KILLERS could be barred from inheriting joint property that they owned with the husbands or wives who were killed, following a review by the Government's law reform watchdog.

The Law Reform Commission (LRC), in its fourth programme of reform, is to re-examine aspects of Ireland's succession laws.

It comes in the wake of legal battles involving killers Eamon Lillis and Catherine Nevin.

The commission will also review a range of laws including corporate offences, sexual offences involving children, cyberbullying and hate crime as well as the principles courts apply to suspended sentences.

The commission, whose president is High Court judge Mr Justice John Quirke, will examine whether a change in the law is necessary to exclude killers from holding on to their share in property they co-owned with their victims.

Two years ago the High Court ruled that Lillis, who was convicted of the manslaughter of his wife Celine Cawley, was entitled to his half-interest in assets jointly owned by himself and his wife.

Ms Cawley's siblings, Christopher and Susanna, asked the High Court to prevent Lillis securing any interest in about €1m worth of assets jointly owned by him and his wife.

The assets include the family home in Howth, Co Dublin, worth about €800,000; an apartment in nearby Sutton, worth about €190,000; and about €68,000 in investments and bonds.

High Court judge Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, who now sits in the Supreme Court, said that while the case had raised a difficult point of law, in essence it involved a contest between Ms Cawley's estate and Lillis as to the beneficial ownership of jointly held assets.

Meanwhile, the commission will also review the admissibility of evidence from a criminal trial and its use in a subsequent civil action.

The issue is central to an action involving convicted murderer Catherine Nevin, wife of Tom Nevin who died at their pub, Jack White's Inn, in 1996.

Tom Nevin's brother, Patrick, and his sister, Margaret Lavelle, have launched civil proceedings aimed at disinheriting her and seeking damages for wrongful death.

ENTITLED

But Nevin contends she is entitled to her late husband's assets, or part of them.

Last March, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns held that deeming Nevin's conviction "as completely inadmissible" in the civil proceedings would be "contrary to common sense and offend any reasonable person's sense of justice and fairness".

The commission received 68 written submissions for its fourth programme and held discussions with NGOs, representative groups, government departments and the Oireachtas justice committee.

Irish Independent

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