Edward Pennefather

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

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 made a King's Counsel by 1816. He was very briefly Attorney-General for Ireland in 1830. He was Solicitor-General for Ireland in the First Peel ministry in 1835 and again in the Second Peel ministry 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.

Leap Castle, the family home of Pennefather's wife Susannah Darby.

In 1806 he married Susannah Darby, eldest daughter of John Darby of Leap Castle, County Offaly, and his wife Anne Vaughan, and sister of John Nelson Darby, one of the most influential of the early Plymouth Brethren. They had ten children, including Edward, the eldest son and heir; Richard, auditor of Ceylon; Ellen, who married James Thomas O'Brien, Bishop of Ossory, Ferns and Leighlin, and Dorothea, (Dora) (1825-1859), who married in 1850, as his second wife, James Stopford, 4th Earl of Courtown, and had three sons. Two of Dora's sons, General Sir Frederick Stopford, commander at the Landing at Suvla Bay, and Admiral Walter Stopford, became famous.

According to Elrington Ball, Pennefather was considered to be one of the greatest Irish advocates 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 sedition, 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 for his conduct of the proceedings. The Law Lords commented severely 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 one of the 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 agreed 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 pp. 190-191
  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