A JUDGE has raised the possibility of amending the law to allow for "alternate jurors" during the trial of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick and two former directors.
Mr FitzPatrick (64) of Whitshed Road, Greystones, William McAteer (62) of Auburn Villas, Rathgar and Pat Whelan (50) of Coast Road, Malahide, have been charged with 16 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to individuals in July 2008 to buy shares in the bank.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court previously heard that the trial could take up to six months and involve 24 million documents in evidence.
Such a trial would be the longest in state history.
At a hearing yesterday Judge Mary Ellen Ring asked, in light of the length of the trial, if there had been any consideration given to amending the Juries Act to allow for alternate jurors to be sworn in.
She noted that this was the practice in other jurisdictions.
In other countries, such as the United States, extra jurors are sometimes sworn in at the start of a case.
These are then available to replace any jurors who cannot continue to serve.
However, at the end of the case only 12 jurors decide on a verdict.
Judge Ring pointed out that under the current system a jury can lose two members and still continue but that if a third person goes the trial would collapse.
Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Una Ni Raifeartaigh, replied that she would take instructions on the matter.
Judge Ring also asked if there was any better indication of exactly how long the trial would take. She said a specially enlarged jury panel would be required to find enough jurors who can commit to the trial and the length of the trial will influence how big this panel has to be.
Ms Ni Raifeartaigh responded that the length of the trial depends on how the accused deal with their defence and that it was inappropriate to ask them this at this stage.
The prosecuting counsel also told the judge that the defendants had requested to be excused from attending future hearing dates until next autumn and that the State had no objection to this.
Judge Ring consented and excused the three men until a pre-trial hearing next November.
The trial is scheduled to begin in January 2014 and there will be a further case management hearing this May.