Solicitor John Devane cleared of claims he verbally abused client
A well-known solicitor was yesterday cleared of allegations that he breached client confidentiality and that he verbally abused or threatened his client.
However, John Devane was found guilty by a disciplinary tribunal of four out of 11 counts of professional misconduct and has been ordered to pay €7,500 into the Law Society's compensation fund.
Mr Devane faced the complaints over his dealings with former client Mary Kelly of Fort Lorenzo, Galway, who was convicted for damaging a US naval aircraft at Shannon Airport in 2003. That conviction was quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal last year.
Ms Kelly, an anti-war activist, said yesterday she was "very disappointed" with the tribunal's findings.
Through the Law Society of Ireland, she had brought the allegations of professional misconduct against Mr Devane, her former defence lawyer.
Yesterday, the solicitors' disciplinary tribunal -- an independent body appointed by the president of the High Court to consider complaints of misconduct against solicitors -- found Mr Devane (49) of Quinlan Street, Limerick, guilty of four allegations against him.
He was censured, ordered to pay €7,500 into the Law Society's compensation fund, and ordered to pay the costs of the tribunal hearings of the case, together with witness expenses.
But the tribunal did not find that he should give compensation to Ms Kelly.
The solicitor was found guilty of failing to provide his former client with particulars of her own case in writing and failing to provide her with a bill of costs of judicial review proceedings. He was also found guilty of purporting to exercise a "lien" or hold on her criminal case file, and failing to hand over her criminal file in order to defend criminal charges against her.
He was found not guilty on seven other allegations, including complaints that he breached client confidentiality and that he verbally abused or threatened his client.
Mr Devane said afterwards that he was "extremely happy" that such a long, drawn-out process was now over and that the tribunal had held in his favour in relation to some very important matters.
Had there been adverse findings in relation to these issues, such as breaching confidentiality, he could possibly have been struck off.
"Censuring me is a blot on my copybook and is something I would rather do without but it will make me all the more careful professionally in ensuring my compliance with all laws pertaining to solicitors in their dealings with clients," he told the Irish Independent.
"Not a single finding reflected upon my dealings with clients on a day-to-day basis and they can be assured their privacy will be protected at all times."
Ms Kelly described the findings as "risible" and said she was very disappointed with the result. Her case had gone on since 2004 but yesterday's findings were "the end of it now".
Counsel for the Law Society, Paul Anthony McDermott, told the tribunal there had been a previous finding of professional misconduct against Mr Devane in 2008. He was censured and ordered to pay €15,000 and meet tribunal costs and witness expenses.