FORMER judge Heather Perrin has been jailed for two-and-a-half-year sentence for deceiving an elderly client out of half of his €1m estate.
The District Court judge, a former solicitor, has made legal history as the first member of the judiciary to be sent to jail.
The 61-year-old, who is recovering from a post-surgical infection following a complicated knee operation – resigned from the bench last Monday, days ahead of her sentence hearing, sparing the Government the prospect of an impeachment process.
Mrs Perrin maintained her innocence throughout her eight-day trial, but today her lawyers said that she accepted the unanimous jury decision as “right and proper”.
Trial judge Mary Ellen Ring said Thomas Davis and his wife Ada “implicitly” followed the advice of their solicitor and friend Mrs Perrin.
The breach of trust was one of the most serious breaches of trust to come before the courts, said Judge Ring, who added that Mrs Perrin and the Davises had experienced a “lifetime of shared experiences”.
At his stage of life, Mr Davis (83) should “not be next or near a courtroom” said Judge Ring who described him as a “clearly impressive witness”.
Heather Perrin fought tears as Judge Ring announced that an immediate custodial sentence was appropriate.
Judge Ring said Heather Perrin’s two adult children were caught up in a nightmare not of their own making.
One aggravating factor was the fact that Heather Perrin knew she was to be appointed a judge when the offence occurred, said Judge Ring.
The former solicitor, who ran a practice in north Dublin, Perrin was appointed as a District Court judge in 2009, just a month after tricking octogenarian Thomas Davis into leaving a huge sum of money to her two children.
She maintained her innocence throughout her seven-day trial at Dublin’s Circuit Criminal Court but was found guilty.
Perrin, of Lambay Court in Malahide, had pleaded not guilty to deceptively inducing Mr Davis to bequeath half of his estate to Sybil and Adam Perrin at Heather Perrin’s office on Fairview Strand on January 22, 2009.
The former director of the Girls Brigade International Council, the Christian organisation for young girls, resigned with immediate effect last night sparing the Government the prospect of impeachment proceedings.
Perrin has been on long-term sick leave from the bench and has remained close to her Malahide home since being sentenced.
The 60-year-old, who earned €147,961 a year as a District Court judge, is entitled to a modest pension of 3/80th of her salary for her three years’ service. It will be paid to her on reaching pensionable age.
Last week she was found guilty by a unanimous jury of deceiving Mr Davis, whose wife Ada the judge knew through the Irish Girls Brigade.
Her defence team suggested that Mr Davis suffered memory problems and had somehow “forgotten” leaving half of his estate to the Perrin children.
In just under four hours the jury decided that Mr Davis, who left €2,000 each in his will for the Perrin children, was not suffering memory loss.
Separate charges of deception relating to the will of Mr Davis’s wife Ada, were dropped before Perrin’s trial because Mrs Davis’s mental state had declined to the point where she was unable to give evidence.
Prosecutor Dominic McGinn said Perrin fought the case using “lies, half-truths and deceptions”.
A brief statement from the Courts Service, issued last night, said Judge Heather Perrin had offered her immediate resignation from the District Court.
Video: Judge Heather Perrin gets two-and-a-half years jail for deception over client’s will
November 28, 2012
Deception-bid judge set to resign
November 26 2012
A judge found guilty of attempting to deceive an elderly friend out of half his estate is to resign.
Heather Perrin will be sentenced on Wednesday after being convicted of deception by the Circuit Criminal Court.
She is the first member of the judiciary in the history of the State to be convicted of a serious crime.
The Court Service has confirmed the 60-year-old, of Lambay Court, Malahide, Co Dublin, plans to quit her post.
“The Courts Service has been informed that this evening Judge Heather Perrin will proffer her immediate resignation from the District Court bench, to President Michael D Higgins, via the Department of an Taoiseach,” it said in a statement.
Perrin faces up to five years in jail for deception after a jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict. She was released on bail but ordered to surrender her passport at Malahide Garda station in Dublin. Throughout the trial she had denied inducing Thomas Davis by deception by including her children as major beneficiaries of his one million euro estate.
Mr Davis, who is in his 80s, and his wife, Ada, had been friends of Perrin for many years.
In evidence, Mr Davis revealed he gave instructions to the former solicitor about a new will in January 2009 which was to bequeath 2,000 euro each to various churches and 2,000 euro each to Perrin’s children Adam and Sybil.
The rest of the estate, including a house in Finglas, 750,000 euro from the sale of a house in Gorey, and a large sum of money on deposit with EBS, was to be divided up between his nieces. But the will drafted by Perrin divided the estate between Mr Davis’s nieces and her own children.
Mr Davis told the trial his will was not read over to him before he signed it and that a copy he received contained his original instructions. The false will was exposed after O’Hanrahan Quaney, the firm that took over Perrin’s business when she was appointed to the judiciary, discovered it in her papers. Charges of deception relating to Mrs Davis’s will were dropped because she was unable to give evidence.
District Court judge shocked by guilty verdict in deception case
November 20, 2012
A District Court judge has been convicted of attempting to deceive her elderly friend out of half of his estate while he was a client of her solicitors firm.
Heather Perrin (aged 60) was found guilty by a jury today after a seven-day trial which heard that she tricked her victim into bequeathing half his estate worth, about €1m, to her two children.
Perrin ran a solicitors practice in North Dublin before being appointed a District Court judge in February 2009, a month after she carried out the scam.
The jury returned a guilty verdict after three hours and 43 minutes of deliberation. The judge was remanded on continuing bail until November 28 for sentencing. She was ordered to surrender her passport to Malahide Garda Station by 3.30pm this afternoon.
Perrin looked shocked when the verdict was read out. She wiped away tears and was comforted by her husband and supporters after the jury left.
Perrin of Lambay Court, Malahide had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to deceptively inducing Mr Davis to bequeath half of his estate to Sybil and Adam Perrin at her office on Fairview Strand on January 22, 2009. She faces a maximum jail term of five years.
She is the first judge in the history of the State to be convicted of a serious crime. She is currently on long-term sick leave and can only be removed from the bench by the Oireachtas.
According to the prosecuting counsel Dominic McGinn SC, Perrin fought the case using “lies, half-truths and deceptions”. When the scam first came to light she claimed it was a mistake by her secretary but later claimed she had drafted the will in line with Mr Davis’s instructions.
Her defence team suggested that Mr Davis, who is aged in his eighties, suffered memory problems and had forgotten leaving half his estate to the Perrin children. The prosecution produced medical evidence that Mr Davis had a good mental capacity and no memory problems.
Charges of deception relating to the will of Mr Davis’s wife, Ada, were dropped before the trial because her mental state has declined to the point where she is unable to give evidence.
The trial heard that Thomas and Ada Davis decided to make their wills with Perrin before she was officially made a judge. Mr Davis gave instructions to leave €2000 each to various churches, €2000 each to Perrin’s children and split everything else between his two nieces.
When he went into her office to sign the will the meeting was rushed as Perrin said she had urgent business to attend to. He was not given an opportunity to read the will nor was it read over to him. He said he didn’t have a problem with this as he trusted Perrin.
The trial heard that the will Mr Davis signed actually split his estate between his nieces and Perrin’s two children. After the meeting with Mr Davis her husband, Albert Perrin, signed the will as a witness.
Several months later Mr Davis received a copy of his will which left out the bequest of half his estate to the Perrin children.
When a new law firm took over Perrin’s practice they wrote to the Davis’s querying several irregularities in their legal documents. Mrs Davis asked Perrin for her help in dealing with the firm.
The judge drafted several increasingly irate letters to the firm demanding they stop contacting the Davis’s and that they return the wills and other legal documents. She had Mr Davis sign the letters before sending them.
On several occasions Perrin sent a friend of hers to pick up the wills, but the firm refused to hand them over without proper authorisation from the Davises.
Eventually the firm examined Mr Davis’s will and noticed the bequest to the Perrin children.
They again wrote to him asking if it was above aboard. When Mr Davis received this letter he immediately went to the law offices where he was shocked to see the will leaving half his estate to Perrin’s children.
He made a new will in line with his original wishes but still left her children €2000 each.
That evening the Davises contacted Perrin who said it must have been a mistake by her secretary.
She was later interviewed five times by gardaí during which she claimed the will was in line with Mr Davis’s instructions and that he did not want to leave his nieces all his estate because he was unhappy with how they had squandered money from him in the past.
The trial heard evidence from both nieces that they have well-paying, steady jobs. They said they had received Stg£40,000 from their uncle, but that they used some of it to pay off a mortgage and the rest was still in a bank account.
The sole witness for the defence was Perrin’s legal secretary, Pauline Ball.
Ms Ball said she was in the office when the will was signed and that it was read over to Mr Davis.
She denied “learning her story” before giving evidence and said she was not shocked about the generosity of the will because the Davises were very generous people.