Judge shot by solicitor during hearing

A JUDGE who once jailed a man for talking in his court was accidentally shot by a solicitor brandishing a pellet gun during a family law hearing in Longford.

Judge John Neilan was hit by the shot as a solicitor, whose identity was not disclosed, was exhibiting an air pistol as evidence in a case.

The weapon was inadvertently discharged, firing a pellet which struck the judge.

The judge was not seriously injured in the incident and continued to hear the court case.

The incident occurred during a family law hearing on Tuesday in front of around half a dozen shocked witnesses.

As the media are excluded from family law cases, other details of the incident remain shrouded in privacy.

Regarded as outspoken, Judge Neilan earlier this year jailed a man for seven days for talking in court.

And then he warned that anybody appearing before him in Athlone District Court would be sent to prison to “learn some manners” if they interrupted proceedings.

Also this year the judge, referring to prisoners already serving jail terms, criticised the Department of Justice for “wasting taxpayers’ money” by bringing prisoners more than 160km out of their way to answer charges in midland courts.

In 2004, Judge Neilan announced that he would jail all convicted drunk drivers for a week pending sentence.

Legal experts, including then Justice Minister Michael McDowell, commented that such a move would be illegal and no good legal reason existed to remand a convicted drunk driver before handing down a sentence.

Judge Neilan said the comments by the minister were made to “intimidate and humiliate” him.

This summer, the judge spoke out strongly at Mullingar District Court against the abuse of children in the home.

“I will elevate children to a position of paramount importance. I am not going to sit in court and allow a nightmare to be visited on innocent children. I will vindicate their rights,” he declared after hearing garda evidence that a clearly distressed nine-year-old child had witnessed a drink-fuelled domestic assault.

This, he said, amounted to an abuse of the child.


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