Attorney General advising on options to deal with judge convicted of sexual crimes

Attorney General advising on options to deal with judge convicted of sexual crimes

The Attorney General has been asked to advise the government of its options following the conviction of a Circuit Court judge for attempted rape and sexual assault.

Judge Gerard O’Brien was convicted in late December of sexually abusing six men between 1991 and 1997 while working as a Dublin schoolteacher. The victims, some of whom were his students, were aged between 17 and 24 at the time, while he was in his 30s.

The judge is due to be sentenced on 4 March and has not yet indicated whether he intends to appeal against his conviction.

Article 35.4 of the Constitution provides that judges of the superior courts can be removed from office “for stated misbehaviour or incapacity… upon resolutions passed by Dáil Éireann and by Seanad Éireann calling for his removal”.

According to the Association of Judges of Ireland, the same process applies to judges of the Circuit Court and District Court “as these judges are declared to hold office by the same tenure as the judges of the Supreme Court and the High Court” under legislation.

No judge has ever been removed from office under Article 35.4 and the exact meaning of “stated misbehaviour or incapacity” has never been judicially interpreted, as Andrew McKeown BL previously explained in a 2020 article for Irish Legal News.

The Dáil will sit for the first time this year on Wednesday 17 January.

In a statement following the conviction two weeks ago, justice minister Helen McEntee said: “I note that a criminal conviction has been secured in the case of a judge of the Circuit Court. My thoughts are with the victims — these are appalling cases of sexual assault, I thank them for coming forward. I would also like to thank the gardaí.

“I have been clear that we have a lot of work to do to achieve my aim of zero tolerance in our society for all forms of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

“Part of that is clearly demonstrating that nobody, no matter what position they hold in our society, is above the law or immune from prosecution for such crimes. Today is clear proof of that.

“I will now be considering the options open to the government and the Oireachtas. I have asked the Attorney General to advise.”

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