Judge hit by airgun pellet in court

An outspoken judge found himself in the firing line after he was accidentally shot with an airgun during a private court case, it was revealed today.

John Neilan, who serves on the bench in the midlands, was struck by a pellet from the pistol as a lawyer showed it to the court.

The colourful judge, best known for his own shooting from the lip, laughed off the attack and carried on hearing the case.

The Courts Service refused to comment insisting it was bound by the rules of family law which prevented it from discussing anything to do with the case.

It is understood a solicitor had been exhibiting the non-lethal kid’s toy when it was inadvertently discharged and a tiny pellet struck the judge.

The shooting occurred during an in-camera Family Law hearing in Longford District Court on Tuesday.

There were at least a half a dozen shocked witnesses including legal teams and court staff.

Judge Neilan is one of the most outspoken and colourful judges sitting in Irish courts.

Last December, he offered an apology to anyone he had offended in his courtroom during his career claiming one of his greatest failings was his honesty.

In the past he has publicly criticised the Courts Service and in a row over late sittings claimed its staff had no intelligence, but he later apologised.

Other targets of his dismay included then Justice Minister Michael McDowell in 2004 in a row over the jailing of drink-drivers, as well as publicans for selling alcohol to young men.

Judge Neilan later refused to attend the opening of a new courthouse with the then minister.


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