Child-porn case against judge collapses

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The Independent Online

The Irish cabinet will grapple today with a legal fiasco which has brought about the collapse of a high-profile child pornography case against a judge.

The Irish cabinet will grapple today with a legal fiasco which has brought about the collapse of a high-profile child pornography case against a judge.

Brian Curtin, a circuit judge, walked free from court in Tralee on Friday after the judge hearing his case ruled a police search warrant used to enter his home was one day out of date.

The prosecution had alleged that images of persons aged under 17 years had been found on Judge Curtin's lap-top computer. But after days of legal argument, Judge Carroll Moran directed the jury to acquit Judge Curtin, saying the law was "crystal clear" over the issue. Judge Moran said: "Many people will think this is a highly unsatisfactory result. I can't do anything about it. The gardai were out of time. There is no other evidence."

The case has generated much public concern and political comment in Ireland, with near-universal agreement that the case against Judge Curtin had been dealt with poorly.

The judge, who is 52, had been in his job for only a few months before his home was raided in May 2002. He has been suspended on full pay ever since. Judge Curtin is said to have had a relationship with a teenage girl after his marriage ended several years ago.

Irish tabloid newspapers reported that he had celebrated the collapse of the case against him in a local pub. One customer was quoted as describing him as "looking self-satisfied, gloating and licking his chops". While awaiting trial, Judge Curtin reported that he had been assaulted several times and spat at. He was given a police escort during the court proceedings.

The police and the Director of Public Prosecutions have been heavily criticised over the case. Meanwhile, strong signals have emerged from the authorities that they do not want Judge Curtin back on the bench.

Many observers have been taken aback by suggestions that, if he agrees to resign, Judge Curtin might be given compensation amounting to several million euros to cover loss of potential earnings.

Joe Costello, of the opposition Irish Labour party, said a return to the bench would cause public outrage and inflict great damage on the legal system. He said that if the judge resigned, there should be no question of the authorities offering him money to "go quietly".

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