High Court Master’s hammer-smashed windows cost €340 to repair

Edmund Honohan told cost ‘waste of scarce resources’ and further damage will be billed

Master of the High Court Edmund Honohan: says he broke three internal windows with a hammer he brought into the Four Courts from his home to facilitate ventilation.

Master of the High Court Edmund Honohan: says he broke three internal windows with a hammer he brought into the Four Courts from his home to facilitate ventilation.

 

The Courts Service told Master of the High Court Edmund Honohan that the cost of repairing three windows he smashed with a hammer in his Dublin courtroom came to €340.

Mr Honohan was warned by the State body responsible for the Four Courts that the repair costs for the damage he caused last month represented “a waste of the scarce resources of the Courts Service” and that it would seek reimbursement of the cost of repairing any further damage he should cause.

“It is not acceptable that court premises should be damaged in this way. It represents a danger to health and safety both to yourself and to persons in the area,” Paul Burns, head of infrastructure services directorate at the Courts Service, told the Master in a letter sent on January 8th.

The Master, who holds a quasi-judicial role overseeing court matters but is not a judge, has said that he broke three internal windows with a hammer he brought into the Four Courts from his home.

Mr Honohan told barristers in his court before Christmas that he had been forced to break the windows due to a ventilation problem.

He complained to the Courts Service on December 21st, the last working day before the Christmas break, about the ventilation after breaking the windows due to a “fug of stuffy hot air”.

Ventilation complaint

Mr Honohan said publicly on radio on Tuesday that he had been complaining for years about the ventilation in his courtroom.

Mr Burns, however, told the Master last week that his complaint on December 21st was the first time that he or the Courts Service’s estate management unit had been told about concerns over the ventilation. He said that he was made aware in December 2018 that the three windows had been broken.

Letters

“I understand that you have stated publicly that you did this,” Mr Burns told him.

Mr Honohan complained to the Courts Service in a handwritten note on December 21st. He made no mention in his letter that he had broken three windows above the door in the courtroom.

“It has become impossible to continue to conduct hearings in this courtroom, day in, day out, without ventilation,” he told Mr Burns in his letter.

“Practitioners have raised the health risks with me and I have myself had to go through four colds in the four weeks to date.”

He described the courtroom as “no longer up to compliance standards” as a workspace for himself and his registrar.

“The practitioners can come in and go out but the registrar and myself have to sit in a fug of stuffy hot air listening to the coughs and sneezes which infect the room with various viruses causing respiratory and other complaints,” he said.

‘Draft’ and ‘flu’

“There is no point in opening the (one opening) window as to do so causes a. a draft and b. flu.”

He continued: “I am in my late 60s. I am not prepared to resume hearings in this courtroom in January unless the three small windows above the door farthest from the dais are removed.”

The Courts Service told Mr Honohan last week that arrangements had been made to fix both the external windows and the high-level internal windows so they could be opened.

Mr Honohan, speaking to RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme on Tuesday, accused the Courts Service of “a bureaucratic half-truth” and defaming him by saying that the ventilation in the courtroom was working before he broke the windows.

The Courts Service declined to comment on his accusations.

The Master denied on the programme that he broke the law by breaking the windows or that the damage amounted to a criminal offence.

“I did damage to the property which I think belongs to the OPW,” he said. The “cheapest option was to remove the panes of glass”, he said.

The OPW did not respond to queries seeking comment.