Friday 21 July 2017

Sean Fitzpatrick's trial adjourned until May 2016 but not halted, court rules

Sean Fitzpatrick
Sean Fitzpatrick

Aodhan O Faolain & Ray Managh

The High Court has dismissed Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán FitzPatrick's application to permanently prevent his trial before Dublin Circuit Criminal Court from proceeding.

However Mr Justice Michael Moriarty on Saturday afternoon ruled the retired bankers trial should be put back by just over seven months, to May 2016, because of the large volume of adverse media publicity about Mr FitzPatrick.

In his ruling the Judge said  the requirements of justice necessitate a deferral of Mr FitzPatrick's trial.

Having carefully considered all the competing factors Mr Justice Moriarty ruled the trial should be adjourned to May 25th 2016 to enable "a fade factor become operative".

Mr FitzPatrick, represented by Colm Condon SC, was not present in court for the ruling nor did he attend the hearing of his application. Neither his lawyers nor those representing the DPP commented on if they would appeal any aspect of the court's decision.

Mr FitzPatrick, who is facing a number of charges including making a misleading, false or deceptive statement to auditors and of furnishing false information from 2002 to 2007, claimed he could not get a fair trial due to the large amount of  adverse media coverage about him.

Mr FitzPatrick, who has pleaded not guilty to 27 charges under the 1990 Companies Act – made the application due to concerns over  the large volumes of adverse media publicity he received following a recent, separate trial of three Anglo officials. His trial was scheduled to begin on October 5th.

In proceedings against the DPP Mr FitzPatrick  (aged 67) sought orders preventing his prosecution from continuing.  He also asked the Court to quash Judge Martin Nolan's ruling in early August that the trial should proceed in October, after he rejected an application made on behalf of the former banker from Greystones, Co Wicklow for an adjournment.

He further sought a declaration from the court that allowing his trial to proceed is contrary to the concept of a fair trial under Article 38 of the Irish Constitution.

Paul O'Higgins SC for the DPP opposed the action, rejected claims Mr FitzPatrick could not get a fair trial, and argued the trial should proceed in October.

In his ruling Mr Justice Moriarty said the court must dismiss the application to permanently prohibit the trial.  It could only be in the most extreme circumstances that such a drastic form of relief could be acceded to.

Mr FitzPatrick's case fell far short of warranting such relief. The preposition that any person attaining a degree of notoriety in the public eye constituted a bar to being duly tried by a Judge and Jury seems "untenable" the Judge said.

In regards to Mr FitzPatrick's arguments he should be afforded a lengthy adjournment the Judge said this too was not a remedy that should be "acceded to glibly." It should only be granted where the interests of Justice require it.

The Judge said in Mr FitzPatrick's case he had read a cross section of many media reports concerning the accused, particularly arising out of the trial of the three Anglo officials.

In all the circumstances Mr FitzPatrick's prosecution was a case where a deferral to May of next year was merited.

"While it does not mean that all antipathy to the applicant will have subsided when the trial starts, but I believe some particular elements are likely to have subsided by then," the Judge added.

The Judge adjourned any outstanding matters of the High Court application, including costs, to October.

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