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08.47 24 Apr 2015


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One of Ireland's best known judges, Mr Justice Paul Carney will sit for the last time today. The presiding judge of the Central Criminal Court is retiring two days before his 72nd birthday. He was appointed to the High Court in 1991. Judges appointed after 1996 must retire at the age of 70. 

Mr Justice Carney had his share of controversies over a long and distinguished career. In January 2013, he sentenced 72-year-old rapist Patrick O’Brien to 12 years in prison with nine years suspended. However he allowed the sex offender out on continuing bail pending an appeal. Three days later he apologised to Mr O'Brien's victim - the sex offender's daughter Fiona Doyle. He admitted he had got it wrong and revoked bail.


In 2010 he was criticised by the Court of Criminal Appeal for making 'trenchant' public comments about knife crime during a speech at University College Cork, while presiding over a case involving a stabbing. The court found the speech contained 'prejudicial' material and overturned the murder convictions of Warren and Jeffrey Dumbrell of Emmet Place in Inchichore in Dublin. The brothers were convicted after a retrial. 

The 71-year-old judge has had health issues in recent times. Late last year he told a jury in a rape trial that he had been brought back from hospital to give them legal directions. The jury foreman asked who he should direct any questions to in the judge’s absence. “Anything that arises I hope to deal with over the telephone. If it’s insoluble over the telephone I’ll have to be brought back,” Mr Justice Carney replied.

Tributes will be paid to Mr Justice Carney in Court 4 of the Four Courts at 10am this morning.

Five things you may not know about Justice Paul Carney:

  1. He had a spot of bother apparently looking for a late drink in the Shelbourne many years ago.
  2. Even High Court judges can forget to put their phones on silent from time to time. It happens. Carney's ringtone was Pixies 'Here comes your man'. He's 71.
  3. He loves the traditions of his profession. Whether you agree with him or not, it's entertaining to watch barristers don their wig especially for his court.
  4. An avid follower of the media, Carney has given out about local radio describing a case as sitting in the Cork Central Criminal Court and referenced a reporter's tweet about school children talking in court.
  5. He has expressed irritation on many occasions at what he sees as the reluctance of employees in the financial sector to do jury duty.

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