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Tuesday 23 January 2018

Hubert Wine

Judge and member of Dublin's Jewish community who was liberal but believed in the death penalty, writes Liam Collins

Judge Hubert Wine, who died in Dublin last Tuesday, was a distinguished member of the Jewish community in the city.

Although there was a considerable legal tradition in his community, which included well-known lawyers like Herman Good (appointed a judge in 1966) and later Mervyn Taylor and Alan Shatter, Wine's father, Louis, was implacably opposed to his career path, wanting him instead to take over his own Grafton Street antiques business.

Born in 1922, Hubert Wine grew up in Rathmines in Dublin and attended the nearby Sandford Park school. He was inspired to follow a legal career after hearing radio reports of the trial of Bruno Hauptman for the kidnapping of the Lindberg baby.

Apprenticed to the firm of Herman Good & Company at the age of 16, he was national table tennis champion of Ireland in 1945 while pursuing his legal studies at Trinity College. It is said that his father reluctantly attended his graduation and only much later congratulated him on his achievements.

In reality Hubert Wine was a very successful lawyer in a legal practice with a large working-class clientele and when his father retired from the antiques business he also took over the running of the firm, making him a very wealthy man.

Appointed a Judge of the District Court in 1976 by the coalition government of Liam Cosgrave he sat in Chancery Street in central Dublin for a number of years. In his first year on the bench he sentenced a man to 14 days in jail for membership of an illegal organisation, the IRA. He was later attacked in his office by an associate of the man, who hurled himself through a glass door to get at him and the judge required surgery for an eye injury.

However, Judge Wine refused garda protection and turned up in court the following day wearing an eye patch.

He served for most of his career as a judge in Dun Laoghaire court, hearing the diverse cases that came before him with humour and compassion. He was always reluctant to send people to jail, but did so when circumstances required.

He became increasingly concerned about teenagers who were committing multiple offences, but were being left free to roam the streets because the State had made no provision for juvenile offenders. The most celebrated case was a request from the Director of Public Prosecutions to withdraw charges against a homeless 15-year-old, which the judge refused to grant because he wanted to highlight the failure of successive governments on the issue.

"I'm not trying to be an embarrassment or a thorn," he told one interviewer on his retirement in 1992 at the age of 70 after serving 26 years on the bench. "Everything is shoved under the carpet here."

Although he was considered quite liberal in his views, he did believe in the death penalty in certain extreme circumstances, and was increasingly alarmed at the anti-social behaviour of young people in the city in which he spent his life. "The law is completely antiquated and should be updated; I think the tools they (the gardai) are given to do their job are insufficient to say the least," he remarked on his retirement.

He was chairman of the Jewish Representative Council in Ireland and life president of the Dublin Hebrew Congregation. Judge Wine, who had four children, passed away at his home and was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Dolphin's Barn last Thursday.

Sunday Independent

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