State Claims Agency investigating allegations against former judge
October 06 2021 07:38 PM
THE State Claims Agency (SCA) has launched an investigation to determine whether the State is liable for damages arising from claims of inappropriate conduct by a former District Court judge.
The move was confirmed in a letter to lawyers representing a woman who alleges Kerry-based James O’Connor abused his position by seeking a sexual relationship with her.
Her allegations were highlighted in the Dáil last month by People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy, who used parliamentary privilege to identify Mr O’Connor.
The former judge, who retired in 2018 after his application to stay on the bench for another year was refused, has yet to comment on the claims.
In a letter to solicitors KRW Law, the SCA said it had commenced investigations into the woman’s allegations.
The SCA declined to comment further.
The agency’s website gives general guidance on the purpose of investigations.
It says these are to facilitate early decision-making in relation to liability and strategy.
“In cases where the SCA investigation concludes that the relevant State authority bears some or all liability, it seeks to settle claims expeditiously and on fair and reasonable terms,” the website said.
“If it considers, in individual claims or classes of claim, that the State is not liable or that the amount sought in compensation is excessive, the SCA’s policy is to contest the claim or level of claim.”
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In legal correspondence, the woman’s lawyers have alleged the judge misused her personal data for improper and personal purposes and that State bodies failed to take appropriate action after she complained to them about the judge.
Her lawyers have indicated she intends to sue the former judge, the Courts Service, the Justice Minister, Ireland and the Attorney General.
Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Murphy alleged the retired judge “abused his position to persistently and completely inappropriately pursue a vulnerable woman who was before his court on a family law matter for a sexual relationship”.
The TD alleged the judge got the woman’s phone number in the context of her family law case and then used that to pursue her “in a way that made her scared”.
He also said a second woman, who he called Ms B, had claimed Mr O’Connor lunged at her in a courthouse.
The first woman complained to gardaí, but it was determined no crime occurred. The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission later found no evidence gardaí had mishandled her complaint.
Taoiseach Michéal Martin said Mr Murphy had raised “a very serious issue”.
Mr Martin said the allegations had not been comprehensively dealt with.
He said he was “very concerned” and wanted to give the matter further consideration.