Tributes paid as judge John Hedigan retires from Court of Appeal

Dubliner presided over long running unsuccessful civil jury action for damages by Ian Bailey

Mr Justice John Hedigan  presided over the long running unsuccessful civil jury action for damages by Ian Bailey.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Mr Justice John Hedigan presided over the long running unsuccessful civil jury action for damages by Ian Bailey. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Attorney General has paid tribute to Mr Justice John Hedigan, who has retired as a judge of the Court of Appeal, for his many years of “dedicated service” to the State.

Mr Justice Hedigan (64) previously served as a judge of the High Court from 2007 until 2016 and of the European Court of Human Rights from 1998 to 2007.

Born in Dublin, he was educated at Belvedere College, Trinity College Dublin and the King’s Inns before being called to the Bar in 1976 and to the Inner Bar in 1990.

As a High Court judge, he presided over the long running unsuccessful civil jury action for damages by Ian Bailey over the conduct of the Garda investigation into the west Cork murder of French film maker Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

He sat for the last time on Friday as a judge of the Court of Appeal (COA) when senior judges, lawyers and members of the Courts service gathered with his family to hear tributes to him.

The president of the COA, Mr Justice George Birmingham, said, as a barrister, Mr Justice Hedigan had a broad civil and criminal law practice and was a favourite of a former Director of Public Prosecutions, Eamonn Barnes.

As a senior counsel, Mr Justice Hedigan was “frequently called upon to wear the green jersey” and did so in many highly sensitive extradition cases, he said.

Mr Justice Hedigan had a distinguished career as judge of the ECHR and was involved in the important case of Cyprus v Turkey, concerning the obligation to exhaust domestic legal remedies, he noted.

During his service as a High Court judge, Mr Justice Hedigan was prepared to work in any area and presided over many high profile jury actions, Mr Justice Birmingham added. He also worked with “a heart and a half” as a judge of the COA and was a “rock of common sense” who would be much missed.

The Attorney General praised the judge for his long years of dedicated public service and particularly noted his involvement in ensuring internet broadcasting of public hearings of the ECHR.

Tributes were also paid on behalf of the Bar Council, Law Society, DPP, Garda and Courts Service.

In reply, Mr Justice Hedigan said he wanted to thank all those who form the backbone of the courts system without which it could not operate.

He also thanked his colleagues, judicial assistants and ushers and particularly thanked his wife Emer, siblings and extended family.

He said he had enjoyed the “tough and fascinating” work as a judge and he considered working as a barrister is a “remarkable career”. It can be “terrifying and exhilarating”, involving “speaking for the voiceless and providing strength for the weak”.

He did not intend to “go quietly” but rather planned to keep busy, he added. Referring to words of a deceased former UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold, he said: “For the past, thanks; for the future, Yes.”