Former president of the High Court Richard Johnson dies
Posted on 6th August 2019 at 20:46
Co Kerry native (81) suggested revisiting vote to remove death penalty from Constitution
The death has occurred of the former president of the High Court, Richard Johnson. He was 81.
Mr Justice Johnson, who served as president of the court from 2006 to 2009, was himself the son of a former judge, also called Richard.
Born in Tralee, Co Kerry, Mr Justice Johnson was appointed a judge of the High Court in 1987. During his time on the bench he served as a judge in the non-jury Special Criminal Court, as well as other duties.
At a ceremony in the courts on the day of his retirement, he spoke about the need for judges to retain their independence.
“If we allow the independence of the judiciary be undermined then we will have a situation where the judges will be subject to the same pressure as our TDs, councillors and planning officials are,” he told a packed courtroom that included his wife, Nuala, and children Rebecca, Murray, Kerry and Emily, as well as senior members of the judiciary and the then attorney general Paul Gallagher.
“The public do not want clever judges, they do not want brilliant judges, but they want honest judges and they want judges who they know have not been got at.”
He also said that the most dangerous pressure which can affect a judge was personal ambition, and that this must be guarded against continuously.
In a subsequent interview with The Irish Times, he suggested that the authorities should look at the question of re-introducing the death penalty. “The government should look at it. Then if the people want it they should have it.”
A constitutional ban on the death penalty was introduced as the 21st amendment to the Constitution in 2001. Another referendum would be necessary if the death penalty were to be legislated for.
“I am not totally in favour of it. But it should be revisited,” the judge said. “If people arm up and go out to rob and decide to take out anyone who gets in their way, they should pay the price.”
Mr Justice Johnson’s removal is on Thursday to the Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook, Dublin, for Requiem Mass at 11.30am.
He is survived by his wife, children, grandchildren, siblings Mary, Paddy and Ann, in-laws, nieces, nephews, and extended family.
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