Perrin jailed for 2 1/2 years for 'one of most serious breaches of trust before courts'
Heather Perrin, who resigned as a judge on Monday, has been jailed for 2½ years for attempting to deceive her elderly friend out of half of his estate while he was a client of her firm of solicitors.
Perrin (61) was sentenced yesterday after an eight-day trial which heard that she tricked her 82-year-old victim into bequeathing half his estate, worth about €1 million, to her two children.
Last week’s verdict marked the first time in the history of the State that a judge has been found guilty of a serious crime.
Judge Mary Ellen Ring said it was one of the most serious breaches of trust to come before the courts and that there was little credit to be found for Perrin.
Judge Ring said it was an aggravating factor that the offence occurred just before Perrin became a judge, and she noted that she continued her involvement with the victim’s legal affairs while on the bench.
She said the victim, Thomas Davis, appeared more than capable of giving evidence but it was an aggravating factor that he had been made go through the trial process at his age.
The judge said he also had to deal with allegations from the defence that he had simply forgotten that he left half their estate to the Perrin children.
She called Mr and Mrs Davis “a loving and generous couple” who trusted the former judge “because of a lifetime of shared experiences”. She said this was shown by the fact that they left Perrin’s children €2,000 even after the scam was uncovered.
The judge said there were some offences where a jail term was unavoidable and it was regrettable that she had no other option but to jail Perrin.
Judge Ring said she would have handed down a 3½-year term if it was not for Perrin’s health difficulties.
After she imposed the 2½-year sentence Perrin broke down, along with her family and supporters.
Pleaded not guilty
She spent five minutes being comforted by her husband, Albert Perrin, before being led away to begin her sentence.
Perrin ran a solicitors’ practice in north Dublin before being appointed a District Court judge in February 2009, a month after she carried out the scam.
Perrin, of Lambay Court, Malahide, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to deceptively inducing Mr Davis to bequeath half of his estate to Sybil and Adam Perrin at her office on Fairview Strand on January 22nd, 2009. She faced a maximum jail term of five years.
When the scam first came to light she claimed it was a mistake by her secretary but later said she had drafted the will in line with Mr Davis’s instructions.
Perrin’s defence counsel, Patrick Gageby SC, asked the court for a lenient sentence as Perrin’s former position as a judge would make her time in jail more difficult. He also presented evidence of a serious infection Perrin suffered in her leg after a knee operation earlier this year.
Canon David Pierpoint told the court Perrin was heavily involved with the Girls’ Brigade at local and national levels.
Prof Damien McCormack told Mr Gageby that Perrin underwent knee replacement surgery during the summer but had to return to hospital with a life-threatening infection. He said this required further surgery, from which she was still recovering.
Breach of trust
Mr Gageby called Perrin’s actions a breach of trust and said his client accepts the verdict of the jury “as right and proper”. He said she had resigned as a judge in light of the conviction.
He submitted that Perrin’s position as a judge would make any jail term much tougher, similar to when gardaí are sentenced to prison.
Counsel told Judge Ring that the media attention to Perrin’s “public disgrace” had made her ordeal worse and should be a factor in sentencing. He said he did not blame the media for this but that it “should be taken into account in a very small way”.
He said that Perrin did not come from a rich family and had “pulled herself up by her bootstraps” to attend law school. He said her conviction marked the end of her career and that it would be unthinkable that she would practise law again.