Personal injury proceedings are to be taken against a former District Court judge alleged to have abused his position to pursue a vulnerable woman for a sexual relationship.
A solicitor for the woman told the Irish Independent that proceedings would issue in the next fortnight against Judge James O’Connor, the Courts Service, the Justice Minister and the Attorney General.
Kevin Winters of KRW Law said the necessary authorisation for the issuing of the lawsuit had been received from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB).
The state parties did not consent to PIAB assessing the matter, while PIAB itself also declined to assess it, clearing the way for proceedings to issue in court.
Allegations against the former judge were outlined in the Dáil in 2021 and last year by People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy.
Mr Murphy claimed the judge got the phone number of a woman who appeared before him in a family law matter and then used it to pursue her “in a way that made her scared”.
The former judge has not commented on the claims.
Mr O’Connor (70) was based in Co Kerry and retired in 2018 after his application to stay on the bench for a further year was refused.
“We now have a clear route map following the recent decision of PIAB,” said Mr Winters.
“It’s a timely development. Proceedings will now issue against all the relevant defendants in the next two weeks.”
The woman making the claims previously complained to gardaí, but it was determined no crime had occurred. The Garda Ombudsman later found no evidence of gardaí mishandling her complaint.
Gardaí are currently considering whether to reopen the investigation after the woman made a fresh statement containing additional information last June.
The matter was not investigated by the Judicial Council for a number of reasons, including that its complaints system does not apply if the person complained of was no longer a serving judge at the time the complaint was made.
Speaking in the Dáil last year, Mr Murphy raised the woman’s case, saying she had tried everything possible “to get justice”.
He said the former judge had “used his position to disgustingly prey upon vulnerable women who were before him on multiple occasions”.
The then Taoiseach, Michéal Martin, said that the powers of the Judicial Council were not retrospective in terms of judges who had retired. He also said the Government could not interfere in operational garda decisions.
In another Dáil exchange in 2021, Mr Murphy said a second woman, whom he called Ms B, had claimed Mr O’Connor lunged at her at a courthouse.
The TD said the second woman had also been before Judge O’Connor on a family law matter.
“He approached her repeatedly, he got her number and then he persistently pursued her,” Mr Murphy said. “There were multiple incidents.”
Mr Murphy read out an account the woman gave him in which she claimed the judge rang her saying he had “stuff” for her case and to meet him at the back door of the courthouse.
The TD quoted the woman as saying: “He said he didn’t have the paperwork with him. He brought me in there to get the paperwork, then he lunged at me. I pushed him and left.
“He obviously felt he could have done anything he wanted to.”