‘No real risk of unfair trial’ for Breifne O’Brien
BUSINESSMAN Breifne O'Brien has lost his Supreme Court bid to halt his trial for alleged offences including theft and deception.
A three judge Supreme Court ruled today the trial could proceed at any time after June 2014.
The court accepted there had been unsatisfactory publicity in relation to the matter and it also said certain remarks about the case by High Court judge, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, were "not wise comments".
However, the Chief Justice, Ms Justice Susan Denham, said the court was satisfied, on various grounds, Mr O'Brien had not shown there was, at this point in time, a real risk of an unfair trial.
She said years had passed since the bulk of the publicity and the "fade factor" applied.
The remarks by Mr Justice Kelly were also made in civil proceedings where Mr O'Brien had not opposed applications by his creditors, she said. Mr Justice Kelly had also made no decision in relation to any criminal trial and the statements he made in the Commercial Court were based on evidence before him, including the fact Mr O'Brien did not contest the facts put before the court, she added.
The fact the trial judge would be able to give directions to the jury and to ensure there was a fair trial all contributed to the court's conclusion there was no longer a real risk of an unfair trial, she said.
Mr O'Brien (51), Kilmore, Monkstown Grove, Monkstown, Dublin, who was in court today, claimed he cannot get a fair trial due to significant amounts of adverse publicity in the print and broadcast media.
In May 2013, the President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns directed the trial could proceed after a 12 month period. He had reservations about the trial proceeding "in the immediate future" due to the media coverage Mr O'Brien has received, the judge said.
Mr O'Brien appealed that decision to the Supreme Court. In dismissing his appeal today, the court also dismissed a cross-appeal by the DPP against the 12 month stay on his trial. Given that a year had passed since the stay was imposed, the court would dismiss the appeal against it, the Chief Justice said.
Mr O'Brien, who denies all the charges against him, has been sent forward for trial before a judge and jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
He is charged with 19 counts of theft involving sums totalling around €11m from five individuals between 2006 and 2008. Another 19 charges involve alleged deception of the same people. A further seven charges of deception involving €1.9m relate one of those five people between 2003 and 2008.