Judge defends sentence in Allen case

The retired judge who caused outrage by punishing Tim Allen with community service for having child pornography has defended his ruling and said the controversy was fuelled by media misreporting.

Michael Pattwell, who stepped down last year after 21 years on the District Court bench, said the sentence of 240 hours community service and a €40,000 charity donation was heavier than English sentence recommendations.

He said he was subjected to personal abuse and rumours after the Jan 2003 case, in which the husband of celebrity chef Darina Allen pleaded guilty to having child pornography on his computer.

Mr Pattwell said almost 1,000 images were mentioned in the initial charges, but the charges on which Allen was convicted related to less than 100.

“The sentence that I imposed on that man was actually higher than was recommended for a similar charge in England,” he said.

He told Charlie Bird on RTÉ Radio 1’s Marian Finucane Show he could understand the public outcry at the time but he blames the media. “They gave wrong information. They did not report that the number of images that Mr Allen was convicted of having was comparatively small to what they did report,” he said.

Rather than the public perception that some people can buy their way out of a sentence, he said Allen got the community service anybody else would get.

“But he got the additional penalty, because he had money, of putting something in place which would prevent little girls in the vulnerable parts of the world being used for the same purpose,” he said.

The €40,000 donation went to the Edith Wilkins Foundation. Mr Pattwell said he understood it was used to buy a house in Calcutta to shelter street children who might otherwise have found their way into “the kind of trade that Tim Allen was ... guilty of supporting”.

But Mr Pattwell thought the criticism he received after the case was unfair, saying he had things said about him that “were so untrue, it was unbelievable”.

“My sister was in company one night and she heard somebody saying to somebody else, ‘Oh sure you know that fella Pattwell is having an affair with a member of that general family’, which was absolutely and totally untrue.”

Strong views

As a recent appointee to the Road Safety Authority, Judge Michael Pattwell said it is an area where the Garda Síochána’s falling numbers and other resources are having an impact. He said he saw just two Garda cars on a recent drive from Cork to Dublin.

“These are places where you should have traffic police all over. There is nothing more effective than a police presence,” he said.

“The manpower isn’t there. People aren’t reporting crime because it’s going to take too long for a policeman to come out,” he said.

The former judge also believes political ties still influence appointments to the bench, although it doesn’t necessarily mean the wrong people get the jobs.

“I’m not playing politics here, you look at every judicial appointment since the current coalition went in and you mark down behind them their political leanings, connections, they’re all Fine Gael or Labour, so things haven’t really changed,” he said.

“All I know is that, with very few exceptions, the system worked and very good people got onto the bench. And particularly under Fianna Fáil,” he told Charlie Bird on RTÉ Radio.


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