Perrin jailed for for deception
Former District Court judge Heather Perrin has been sentenced to two and a half years in jail by the Circuit Criminal Court following her conviction for deception last week.
Perrin, who resigned from the bench on Monday, burst into tears as she heard the sentence.
Last Tuesday, Perrin (60), of Lambay Court, Malahide, Co Dublin, was found to have induced a client by deception to leave half his estate to her two children when she was working as his solicitor.
It was a unanimous verdict from the jury, which had deliberated for more than 3½ hours. Perrin was released on bail by Judge Mary Ellen Ring until today's hearing.
Delivering sentence today, the judge described the case as “one of the most serious breaches of trust” to come before the courts.
Perrin and Mr Davis (83) were close friends when she worked as his solicitor. The court heard he considered her children as family. Perrin had represented him throughout most of her career, dating back to the early 1980s, and had been close friends with his wife Ada since childhood.
The judge said: “This was a trust not just based on their client-solicitor relationship, but one built on a lifetime of shared experiences.”
She said it was regrettable that a person aged in her 60s should serve time in prison, but due to the substantial breach of trust involved, she had no choice but to impose a custodial sentence.
The judge noted Perrin’s grown-up children had been caught up in “a nightmare” of their mother’s making.
She said it was testament to the kindness of the Davises that they still intend to leave €2,000 to both children.
“The Davises have no children of their own,” Judge Ring said. “It is clear they are a loving and generous couple who were close to the Perrin children.”
Perrin, dressed in black, had walked into the court building using crutches as she recovers from knee replacement surgery.
Her husband Albert broke down after embracing his wife as she was led away by prison officers.
Patrick Gageby, senior counsel for the defence, asked the judge to take Perrin’s former legal standing into account when sentencing. He said she had attracted unwanted notoriety in becoming the first judge ever in the State to be convicted of a serious crime. “It is unthinkable that she will be able to practise in law after this,” Mr Gageby said.
He also pointed out that she was heavily involved in Christian youth organisation the Girls’ Brigade and had recently undergone knee replacement surgery.
The judge said she had to consider all aspects, including Perrin’s clean criminal record prior to the offence, her formal legal standing, community work and medical condition.
Following the sentencing, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said it was of "utmost importance" that a client can trust a solicitor acting on his or her behalf to properly implement his or her instructions.
"Members of the legal profession are in a particular position of trust and to ensure confidence in the profession, all solicitors must honestly implement instructions received and at all times act in an appropriate manner," he said.
"The conviction last week of Heather Perrin in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court and her sentencing today starkly illustrates the importance of the highest standards of honesty being observed."
Mr Shatter said he had been considering, in consultation with the Attorney General, initiating the impeachment process had Ms Perrin not resigned as a judge.
Perrin is on long-term sick leave from her post. She may yet appeal her conviction to the Court of Criminal Appeal. She is the first member of the judiciary to be convicted of a serious crime in the history of the State.