Garda Ombudsman to probe judge’s ‘texts to woman’ in family law case

Garda Ombudsman to probe judge’s ‘texts to woman’ in family law case

The Garda ombudsman, Gsoc, is looking into whether gardaí properly investigated the complaint of a woman who said she had been repeatedly contacted by a judge who was dealing with her family law case.

The woman alleges that the judge had contacted her by text and phone after she appeared before him. In a statement to gardaí, she said the judge first contacted her on the same day that she and her husband had appeared before him at an in-camera hearing.

She and her husband, who have young children, were separated at the time but she was seeking a barring order against him on the basis that he had assaulted her. She claims that, during the hearing, the judge asked for the phone numbers of both her and her husband. Later that day, she had a missed call from an unknown phone number and when she rang it back, the judge identified himself by his first name and being “from the court”. She says that he told her “you looked very beautiful today”.

She claims that he texted her while she was on a sun holiday with her children and when she came back, she received a phonecall from the judge where he told her that “her skin must look nice now”.

She claims that the judge repeatedly expressed an interest in meeting her and they eventually met for a coffee. She appeared before him again in relation to her case at a hearing, where she became very emotional.

She said she was afraid to tell her solicitor and barrister about the contacts with the judge, as he had asked her not to. When she was granted a temporary barring order instead of a permanent order, she became very upset.

“I started crying over the protection order and said I was afraid of my husband because I couldn’t say I was afraid of the judge,” she says.

Subsequently, the woman complained to gardaí and supplied her phone and screenshots of texts, including the judge’s number, as evidence. She was not asked to provide a statement but, three months later, after a reporter made an inquiry to the Garda Press Office, she was contacted by gardaí to give a statement.

Garda Ombudsman to probe judge’s ‘texts to woman’ in family law case

A number of months later, her phone was returned and she was told there would be no further action. She claims she was told by one detective that there was nothing they could do as it was a “normal situation, boy-meets-girl” thing. She says she was told her phone was not examined for evidence and she was not told whether the judge had been interviewed about the matter.

The woman is of eastern European origin, but has been living here for more than a decade. The judge is no longer serving on the bench.

After the contacts with the judge, the woman wrote to the President, the Minister for Justice, and two senior judicial figures. She received a response from the President, who explained that any such matter was outside his office’s function.

She also received one from the justice minister, who referenced the Judicial Council Bill going through the Oireachtas, which has a provision for dealing with complaints against the judiciary.

The woman was advised to retain a criminal law solicitor, but despite approaching a number of solicitors, she was unable to find one willing to represent her.

Following the conclusion of the Garda investigation, she wrote to the Garda ombudsman, Gsoc. The Irish Examiner understands that Gsoc has elevated the case to a high priority.

A spokesperson for Gsoc said the ombudsman had no comment to make.

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