Lawyers for a woman found guilty of killing her mother by neglect say appeal judge may be biased

Evelyn Joel with her daughter Eleanor, grand daughterand Eleanor's partner John Costen
Evelyn Joel with her daughter Eleanor, grand daughterand Eleanor's partner John Costen

Lawyers for a woman found guilty of unlawfully killing her mother by neglect have claimed that one of three judges assigned to hear her appeal may be biased against her.

As a result, Eleanor Joel's appeal against conviction for unlawfully killing 59-year-old MS Sufferer Evelyn Joel by neglect will not proceed until October.

Evelyn's daughter, Eleanor (41), and her partner Jonathan Costen (42), with last addresses at Cluain Dara, Enniscorthy, had pleaded not guilty to the unlawful killing of Evelyn by neglect in Co Wexford in January 2006.

They were found guilty by a jury at Wexford Circuit Criminal Court and were each given a two year suspended sentence on condition they carry out 230 hours of community service by Judge Seán O'Donnabháin in March 2013.

Both Ms Joel and Mr Costen appealed their convictions and hearings were due to take place in the Court of Appeal yesterday.

An application by the Director of Public Prosecutions for a review of the couple's sentences on grounds that they were unduly lenient was also due to be heard today.

However, before proceedings commenced yesterday morning, Mr Justice George Birmingham, presiding, said the court had received a letter from the solicitor for Ms Joel.

On foot of the letter, Mr Justice Birmingham said he was not going to "force the case on" before a court was constituted and due to the unavailability of a two-day slot, the case would “unfortunately” have to go back to a date in October.

Mr Justice Birmingham said that when Mr Justice John Edwards was assigned to sit on the court at the end of last week he immediately spoke to his colleagues and to President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Seán Ryan.

“All of us” were of the view that there would be absolutely no problem whatsoever, the judge said, with Mr Justice Edwards' previous involvement in a judicial review matter.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who was sitting with Mr Justice Edwards and Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, said he wasn't going to make any criticisms.

He added that having read the papers, “even if it was possible to signal these concerns before the weekend,” it would have saved the court and counsel aswell “a significant amount of reading over the weekend”.

The case was put back to May 15 next with a view to fixing a date for hearing.

Ms Joel and Mr Costen were present in court for today's application.