An altogether different criminal case

There are some hints that the trial of Gail O’Rorke differs from the usual criminal proceedings to be found in the court system.

An altogether different criminal case

Yesterday, at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, when a Garda sergeant was giving evidence for the prosecution, he repeatedly referred to the defendant by her first name.

He also told the jury of six men and six women that when the defendant was intercepted at the scene of one of the alleged crimes for which she is on trial, she was not arrested.

“No, not at all,” Sergeant Declan Sheeran told the court.

Not only that, but after Ms O’Rorke accompanied the sergeant and a detective colleague to a Garda station, no statement was taken from her, no criminal investigation opened.

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As is often the case in serious criminal trials, the spirit of a deceased person hangs over the proceedings.

Here though, there is no suggestion of a life violently taken by another, no search for motive, no dispute about the cause of death.

Ms O’Rorke has pleaded not guilty to three charges. These are that she aided and abetted the suicide of Bernadette Forde by helping her to procure and administer a toxic substance between April 20 and June 6, 2011; that she procured the suicide of Ms Forde between June 4 and June 6 of the same year by means of making funeral arrangements for Ms Forde in advance of her death; and that she attempted to aid and abet Ms Forde’s suicide by means of attempting to arrange travel to Zurich for such purpose between March 10 and April 20, 2011.

The final of the three above charges was the focus of proceedings when the trial entered its third day.

The court heard from a travel agent and her boss about how Ms O’Rorke booked flights to Zurich, and, according to the travel agent, said that the purpose of the flight was to bring a friend to Digitas, the organisation in Zurich that assists people to take their own lives.

Witness Caroline Lynch leaving

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

The Rathgar-based travel agent contacted the gardaí in case the company would be left exposed to the possibility of assisting in a suicide. When Ms O’Rorke called by appointment to pick up the ticket, Sgt Sheeran and a colleague met her at the premises.

Sgt Sheeran told the court that he explained the situation to her. “There’s a moral issue here and emotional issues, but I explained to Gail that it was an offence,” he said.

The court has already heard that Ms O’Rorke and Ms Forde had become close friends after the former came to work for Ms Forde, who was suffering from multiple sclerosis, as a cleaner.

Ms O’Rorke sits in the seat reserved for defendants — the dock, contrary to popular belief, was abolished a few decades ago.

She is accompanied by close family and friends. Ms Forde’s sisters gave evidence the previous day, but most of those in attendance yesterday appeared to be accompanying Ms O’Rorke.

The court has heard repeated evidence of the closeness of the two women. When Ms Forde’s family gave evidence the previous day, the only references made to Ms O’Rorke were positive. There appears to be no rancour between any of the parties in the case. What is at issue is the law, and the law alone.

Later yesterday, the court heard from a solicitor who drew up Ms Forde’s will in March 2011 — three months before she died.

Maurice O’Callaghan told the court that the deceased woman made provisions for a few close relatives and friends, and wanted the residue of her estate 70% to 30% left to a niece to whom she was close, and Ms O’Rorke, respectively.

The solicitor said that he did inquire about bequeathing a “stranger” in legal terms, but Ms Forde was quite adamant. “She said Gail wasn’t putting a gun to her head, wasn’t applying pressure. She said Gail makes her life better.”

Consulting his notes, the solicitor referred to what Ms Forde had told him during their meeting.

“From now on Gail is stuck with the unenviable task of washing her. She started out as a cleaner then became a wonderful friend.”

The trial, presided over by Judge Pat McCartan, is expected to run for two weeks.

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