Curtin case is the biggest judicial scandal in history of the State

THERE was a deep sense of outrage on the airways during the week that Judge Brian Curtain has been paid approximately €600,000 since he was charged with possession of child pornography, and that he will now get a further €57,000 in severance.

In addition, if he can show that his retirement is due to ill-health (which is obvious), he will be eligible for a pension of €19,000, even though he sat on the bench for less than two years.

Some people were calling Joe Duffy’s Liveline in outrage that their loved ones worked for the State for over 40 years and they are only getting a fraction of that amount. Their annoyance is both understandable and justifiable.

But this should apply to the whole rip-off system in which politicians and judges are the worst offenders. Politicians are the only people who can draw a pension after a few years and actually get it while they are still working in the same job. Then, when they are rejected, or fired by the electorate, they get a golden handshake instead of the boot. What kind of example is that?

Most people think the Curtin case stinks. Many question the role of the gardaí in the collapse of the court case. Serious questions need to be answered, but all we are getting is obfuscation and an obvious conspiracy of silence.

The so-called impeachment of Curtin is the most expensive smokescreen in Irish history, having already cost around €1 million, largely in Dáil expenses and legal fees.

Who is behind that smokescreen, and why? The Circuit Court case against Curtin was essentially withdrawn in April of 2004 for lack of evidence because the prosecution could not introduce any material due to the manner in which it had been seized.

We will never know what that material would have shown. On the evidence of the prosecution’s outrageous behaviour in this case, it would be extremely foolish to make any assumption about the content.

The State alleged that child pornography was found on Judge Curtin’s computer. But when those allegations were made in open court, the prosecution must have known that it would never be able to prove them.

Judge Carroll Moran, who presided over the case, ruled the prosecution knew, or ought to have known, that its evidence would be inadmissible.

“The law is crystal clear”, he said; “the issue could not be simpler, and it was wrong for the prosecution to bring this case to trial.”

Prosecuting the case was a grotesque abuse of our judicial system, and what we have been witnessing since has been the manipulation of public opinion in order to obscure the reality of what actually happened.

Det Insp Tom Dixon told the court in Tralee that Judge Curtin first came to the attention of the gardaí when US police authorities and Interpol supplied his name, address and credit card details as part of an international investigation into child pornography.

This was the result of the seizure in Texas of the database of the porn provider, Landslide Productions, on September 8, 1999.

The police seized details of some 300,000 transactions involving 100,000 people from over 60 countries. Approximately 35,000 of those people were in the US, but only 200 of them were ever even charged.

That amounts to 0.57%. Why so few? Landslide Productions initially provided only adult pornography, which was legal. By the time of the raid, some 43% of its business was child pornography, but 57% was still legitimate.

When the FBI provided police in other countries with the names of those whose credit card numbers were used to purchase material from Landslide Productions, it did not distinguish between legal and illegal transactions.

As Judge Curtin’s credit card number was among those used, the gardaí secured a seven-day search warrant to seize his computer.

The warrant was issued at 3.20 pm on May 20, 2002, and the prosecution claimed it was still valid when it was executed at 2.20 pm on May 27.

But no time was stated on the warrant, “which would be absolutely essential if it contemplated days of successive periods of 24 hours in order that everyone would know precisely when a particular warrant expired”, Judge Moran noted.

The law had been clear on this matter for over 60 years.

“Where a period of time is expressed to being on or be reckoned from a particular day, that day shall, unless the contrary intention appears, be deemed to be included in such period”, the Interpretation Act 1937 specifies.

The warrant was issued for seven days on May 20, so it was valid only until midnight on the night of May 26, 2002.

IN 1990, the Supreme Court ruled that evidence obtained with a flawed warrant must be excluded unless there are extraordinary excusing circumstances, which clearly did not exist in this case.

Judge Moran was placed in an invidious position. He could have funked his responsibility and allowed the evidence to be admitted in court and left it for a higher court to throw out any possible conviction on appeal, but he did his duty.

Judge Moran is the only hero in this squalid affair.

He applied the law to Curtin “as it would apply to anyone else”.

It was a pity that the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) did not have the same courage.

In executing the search warrant the gardaí implemented Murphy’s Law instead of the law of the land. Too many people suspect this was a deliberate foul-up so that Curtin would get off. This matter needs to be clarified in the interest of the Garda Síochána as a whole.

Shortly after the collapse of the Curtin case, the detective inspector in charge of the raid was promoted to the rank of superintendent.

This required the approval of not only the Minister for Justice, but of the whole cabinet.

Among gardaí there is a firm belief that the detective actually questioned whether the search warrant was out of date, but was told to go ahead.

When gardaí fouled up in Tralee in relation to the Kerry Babies case in the 1980s, a judicial tribunal was held. So why is the conduct of the gardaí in this instance being ignored?

Could it be that it was not the gardaí but others in more privileged positions who were responsible for the monumental mess?

Why did the DPP bring charges when, in the opinion of Judge Moran, he knew, or ought to have known, better. If the DPP didn’t know any better, should he be in the job?

The court case was essentially an outrageous publicity stunt, a kind of show trial used just to inflame public opinion. This is anathema to a proper system of justice.

Why was Curtin appointed to the bench in the first place. He had been an unsuccessful candidate in the previous local elections for the PDs.

Did the then Attorney General, Michael McDowell, have any input in the appointment? Remember Judge Moran stated “it was wrong for the prosecution to bring this case to trial”.

Why did they do it? There are too many unanswered questions.

This is the biggest judicial scandal in the history of the State.

Public disquiet over the pension issue is generating a smokescreen that is obscuring the lousy judgement that has marred this case from the outset.

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