Retired judge James O’Connor will not be investigated over claims made in Dáil that he preyed on vulnerable woman
24th November 2022
The judicial watchdog has said it will not investigate retired judge James O’Connor, despite claims made in the Dáil that he “abused his position” to pursue a vulnerable woman for a sexual relationship.
In correspondence seen by the Irish Independent, the Judicial Council said it could not deal with a complaint because he ceased to be a judge prior to its investigative powers commencing.
The former district court judge, who was based in Kerry, retired in 2018 after his application to stay on the bench for another year was refused. Allegations against him were outlined in the Dáil last year by People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy and were raised again yesterday.
Mr Murphy claimed the judge got the phone number of a woman who appeared before him in a family law matter and then used it to pursue her “in a way that made her scared”.
He also said a second woman, whom 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 had occurred. The Garda Ombudsman later found no evidence of gardaí mishandling her complaint.
Mr O’Connor has yet to comment on the claims.
After the matter was raised by Mr Murphy, the Judicial Council was given powers to investigate complaints of judges’ misconduct.
However, in a letter to the first woman, it said it could not admit a complaint from her for a number of reasons.
These included that, by law, it could only consider incidents of alleged judicial misconduct on or after October 3 this year. Second, it said the complaints system did not apply if the person complained of was no longer a serving judge at the time the complaint was made.
The woman had asked that her complaint be considered, notwithstanding the limits imposed on the council by legislation, but was told there was “absolutely no basis” on which the council’s judicial conduct committee could “waive or ignore the law in any circumstances, regardless of the nature of any complaint”.
Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Mr Murphy said the former judge had “used his position to disgustingly prey upon vulnerable women who were before him on multiple occasions”.
He said one of the victims had been doing everything possible “to get justice”, but the Judicial Council told her it could not deal with her complaint.
“She has tried again and again to get the gardaí to take this seriously. What is she to do? What action is being taken by the Government to ensure this sort of thing cannot happen again?” Mr Murphy asked.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said it was legitimate for Mr Murphy to raise the case, because what had allegedly happened was “not satisfactory in any shape or form”.
But Mr Martin added that the powers of the Judicial Council were not retrospective in terms of judges who had retired. He also said the Government could not interfere in operational garda decisions.
He said he hoped the “new structures” would “make sure there is a very clear pathway for people to seek to have complaints raised with the Judicial Council and that they would be adjudicated on in a timely and effective manner”.