Solicitor's relative accuses judge of bias over family mortgage

A relative of bankrupt solicitor Brian O’Donnell and his wife Dr Mary Patricia O’Donnell has made a last minute challenge to the judge hearing their bankruptcy case.

Mr Justice Peter Charlton has dismissed as "frankly absurd" a claim that he may appear to be biased because he has accounts and a mortgage with Bank of Ireland.

Brian and Dr Mary Patricia O’Donnell were adjudicated bankrupt last month over a €71m debt to Bank of Ireland.

Today as Mr Justice Peter Charlton was about to finalise that order he was stopped by the solicitor’s brother-in-law Rory O’Byrne who spoke of a "whiff of bias" and said the judge’s relationship with the bank needed to be clarified.

Mr Justice Charlton denied a claim that he had mortgages with Bank of Ireland as if he were a property developer.

"I have one mortgage on my family home" he said, and more than one account there to carry out day to day affairs.

He added that a judge has a right to privacy – and said that never before in the history of the High Court has there been an application for a judge to recuse himself from a trial simply because he has ordinary family dealings with a bank.

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