Paul Carney, the former criminal law judge who presided over some of the most high profile and controversial cases in recent decades, died yesterday at the age of 72 after a short illness.
Mr Justice Carney, appointed to the High Court in 1991 and retired last April.
Justice Nicholas Kearns, President of the High Court, described his death as a sad loss for his family and for the judiciary. “He was the pre-eminent criminal law judge in the Central Criminal Court in our time, presiding in a long career over well more than a hundred murder and rape trials. He did so with exemplary fairness throughout.”
One of Mr Justice Carney’s trials which caused controversy was that of Wayne O’Donoghue. The judge attracted criticism when he sentenced O’Donoghue to four years in jail for the manslaughter of an 11-year-old neighbour Robert Holohan, and later criticised the schoolboy’s mother’s use of her victim impact statement to try to raise unanswered questions about the prosecution of her child’s killer. The DPP appealed the sentence on the grounds of leniency but, despite plenty of public disquiet, the Court of Criminal Appeal upheld the judge’s decision, ruling four years was sufficient.
Mr Justice Carney’s words outside the courthouse also grabbed headlines. At a law seminar in 2008, he made comments about the proliferation of stabbings. At the time he was presiding over the trial of the Dumbrell brothers for a fatal stabbing. They were convicted but their lawyers argued at the Court of Criminal Appeal in 2010 that the judge’s comments had prejudiced the trial. The appeal court agreed, quashed the convictions, ordered a retrial.
Mr Justice Carney, who passed away at St Vincent’s Private Hospital, is survived by his wife Dr Marjorie Young and their four children. He will be buried at Deans Grange Cemetery in Dublin following funeral Mass at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook next Tuesday.
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