An urgent investigation into a newspaper report suggesting that a judge tried to interfere in a family law case has concluded that such interference did not occur because a ruling had already been made in the case.
The investigation was instigated by the presidents of the High Court and Circuit Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns and Mr Justice Raymond Groarke, respectively, on foot of a report in The Sunday Times.
The article suggested that a judge in the Circuit Court had “tried to meddle” in a family law case. The presidents said any allegation of this nature was “of grave concern”.
The report said Henry Abbot, a senior family law judge in the High Court, issued a judgment last July in relation to a dispute between parents about access to their child.
The report said the ruling set out “how Abbot was queried about aspects of the case by an unnamed Circuit Court judge, who made an approach following a representation from a former TD”.
The Sunday Times also reported that Judge Abbot said the mother in the case accepted she had approached the TD about the case, and had apologised for doing so.
Judge Abbot told the court yesterday that a few days after a ruling delivered by him on July 21, 2010, he had encountered Judge Desmond Hogan in the yard of the Four Courts.
In the course of a casual conversation, Judge Hogan asked if it was true that he had made a particular order in the case in question, a query to which Judge Abbott took exception. He said the reasons for his decision would be detailed in a written judgment in due course. The judgment was delivered on July 26, 2011.
Judge Hogan said there had been “absolutely no intention of interfering with the case or influencing its outcome in any way”.
The presidents concluded that although Judge Hogan should not have raised the matter with Judge Abbot, he could not have influenced the latter in his ruling of July 21, 2010, as the incident occurred in the aftermath of the ruling.
They said they were satisfied the conversation “had no effect when three years later he delivered a further ruling” last July.
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