Edward Pennefather

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Edward Pennefather PC, KC (22 October 1774 – 6 September 1847) was an Irish judge.

Pennefather was born in Tipperary, the second son of William Pennefather of Knockeevan, member of the Irish House of Commons for Cashel and his wife Ellen Moore, daughter of Edward Moore, Archdeacon of Emly. He went to school in Clonmel and graduated from the University of Dublin. He was called to the Irish Bar in 1795 and was King's Counsel by 1816. He was very briefly Attorney-General for Ireland in 1830; Solicitor-General for Ireland in 1835 and again in 1841; in the latter year he was appointed Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench for Ireland and held the position until he resigned on health grounds in 1846.

He married Susannah Darby, eldest sister of John Nelson Darby, in 1806. They had a daughter, Dora (1825-1859), who married in 1850, as his second wife, James Stopford, 4th Earl of Courtown, and had three sons, two of whom General Sir Frederick Stopford, commander at the Landing at Suvla Bay, and Admiral Walter Stopford, became famous.

According to Elrington Ball, Pennefather was the greatest Irish advocate of his time, and one with few rivals in any age, but he did not live up to expectations as a judge, due largely to his age and ill-health.[1] As a judge he was notable mainly for presiding at the trial of Daniel O'Connell in 1843 for conspiracy, where his alleged bias against the accused damaged his reputation.[2] Further damage was done by the majority decision of the House of Lords quashing the verdict in the O'Connell case:[3] while many of the errors were the fault of the prosecution, the Law Lords did not spare Pennefather, remarking that the course of the trial, if condoned, would make a mockery of trial by jury in Ireland.[4]

A related trial, of Sir John Grey, descended into farce when the Attorney-General for Ireland, Sir Thomas Cusack-Smith, who was noted for his hot temper, challenged defence counsel Gerald Fitzgibbon to a duel, for having allegedly accused him of improper motives. Pennefather told the Attorney General severely that a man in his position had no excuse for such conduct, whereupon the Attorney General agrred to let the matter drop.

His brother Richard Pennefather (1773-1859) had a longer and more successful career as a judge: appointed a Baron of the Court of Exchequer in 1821 he served for nearly 40 years and was held in universal regard;[5] with the general support of the profession he remained on the Bench until shortly before his death at eighty-six, by which time he was blind.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921 John Murray, London, 1926
  2. ^ Geoghegan, Patrick M. The Liberator- the Life and Death of Daniel O'Connell 1830-1847 Gill and Macmillan Dublin 2010 p.168
  3. ^ O'Connell v the Queen (1844) 11 Cl and Fin 155
  4. ^ Geoghegan pp190-191
  5. ^ Geoghegan The Liberator
Legal offices
Preceded by
Henry Joy
Attorney-General for Ireland
1830–1831
Succeeded by
Francis Blackburne
Preceded by
Michael O'Loghlen
Solicitor-General for Ireland
1835
Succeeded by
Michael O'Loghlen
Preceded by
Richard Moore
Solicitor-General for Ireland
1841
Succeeded by
Joseph Devonsher Jackson
Preceded by
Charles Kendal Bushe
Lord Chief Justice of Ireland
1841–1846
Succeeded by
Francis Blackburne