Thursday 20 July 2017

Catalogue of mistakes led to acquittal after the longest-running criminal case in legal history

This was the second time that Mr FitzPatrick had been accused of failing to disclose multi-million euro loans to Anglo’s auditors. Photo: PA
This was the second time that Mr FitzPatrick had been accused of failing to disclose multi-million euro loans to Anglo’s auditors. Photo: PA
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Sean FitzPatrick is a free man. How did this happen?

After the longest-running criminal trial in history - 126 days - former Anglo chairman Sean FitzPatrick was acquitted on all charges by direction of the trial judge.

The judge ruled that the investigation carried out by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) fell short of the impartial, unbiased investigation to which an accused is entitled.

This was the second time that Mr FitzPatrick had been accused of failing to disclose multi-million euro loans to Anglo's auditors.

The jury in Mr FitzPatrick's first trial was discharged in June 2015 after seven weeks of legal argument in the absence of the jury.

It would emerge that on May 1, 2015, after he had finished giving evidence during the legal argument, ODCE investigator Kevin O'Connell shredded a small number of documents that should have been disclosed to the defence team. That case was unable to proceed after Mr O'Connell became ill and was not able to attend.

Criticism: Judge John Aylmer. Photo: Ronan Quinlan / Collins
Criticism: Judge John Aylmer. Photo: Ronan Quinlan / Collins

Is Sean FitzPatrick a free man for good?

Yes. Sean FitzPatrick will not face any more criminal proceedings. Three years ago, a jury acquitted him on all counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to the so-called Maple 10 businessmen to buy Anglo shares in July 2008. He is now a free man.

How did this latest acquittal happen?

Judge John Aylmer said that the most fundamental error was the manner in which the ODCE set about taking statements from witnesses, involving the coaching of witnesses, contamination of its statements from third parties such as solicitors for the auditors, and cross-contamination of their statements between other witnesses. Judge Aylmer also pointed to the "extraordinary occurrence" in which the ODCE lead investigator, Kevin O'Connell, admitted [in the first trial] destroying documentary evidence.

Who is to blame?

Take your pick. The chief reason that led to Mr FitzPatrick's acquittal lies with the ODCE. However, the Garda and the Office of the DPP also bear responsibility.

Questions must also be asked about the role of lawyers involved in the process of producing, along with ODCE investigators, statements of two key prosecution witnesses from auditing firm EY.

How much did it cost?

This was a nine-year investigation by the ODCE, running into the tens of millions.

It was the second failed attempt to prosecute Mr FitzPatrick on these charges.

As Mr FitzPatrick was declared bankrupt in 2010, the taxpayer is picking up the bill for both sides.

Irish Independent

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