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£1m will fraudster farmer may be freed for daughter's wedding

By Alan Erwin

Published 02/04/2015

Francis Tiernan
Francis Tiernan

A farmer who forged his godmother's will in a plot to swindle her out of nearly £1m may be allowed out of jail to attend his daughter's wedding.

Prison bosses had denied Francis Tiernan's request for release to attend the ceremony on Easter Monday.

But yesterday a High Court judge quashed their decision and ordered prison bosses to reconsider.

Mr Justice Treacy ruled that 54-year-old Tiernan's medical condition and offers by two solicitors and two priests to act as sureties were not properly assessed.

The judge said: "It will be a matter for the governor to retake the decision and he will have to do it with extreme urgency."

In October last year Tiernan, formerly of Carrickasticken Road in Forkhill, Co Armagh, received a three-year jail sentence for his part in a fraud described as being "like a Hollywood script".

He had tried to use a forged version of his godmother's will to inherit most of a £1m estate.

In December 2004, Catherine 'Kitty' Haughey was found dead in the flat above her Forkhill pub. Her will had been changed two weeks before she died.

Under the original terms Tiernan was bequeathed £1,000 - but in the forged version he was to receive Ms Haughey's home, pub and cash from bank accounts.

He originally denied involvement in forging the fake replacement, but following extradition from the Republic he pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiring to use a false instrument.

A GP and a surveyor who admitted drafting and witnessing the fake document received suspended sentences.

During Tiernan's bid to judicially review the Prison Service's decision to refuse his request it was claimed that allowing temporary release to attend a wedding could set a precedent.

But his barrister argued that there were unique circumstances of his serious ill-health.

Mr Justice Treacy acknowledged the family's concerns that if they were forced to delay the wedding, Tiernan's future attendance could not be guaranteed.

The family also switched the ceremony from the Republic to a location in Northern Ireland to help ease prison authorities' concerns, the court heard.

Quashing the decision, the judge held that the governor failed to attach any weight to the offer by lawyers and clergymen to act as sureties. He also took issue with the prison having classed Tiernan's medical condition as a "neutral" point in the assessment.

The judge said there was "absolutely no reason" why the new decision couldn't be dealt with before the close of business today

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