Saturday 22 July 2017

DPP calls for expert juries in white-collar crime trials

Anne-Marie Walsh

EXPERT juries are needed to tackle the rise in white-collar crime, according to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

DPP James Hamilton last night warned exceptional measures had to be considered that may require a constitutional amendment.

He said the introduction of special juries, comprised of judges or specialists, "needs to be looked at" because the public could not always deal with complex cases.

Mr Hamilton said legislation could be brought in to allow a judge to order that a case be heard before a panel of judges or a jury of people with qualifications to understand the issues. "Because our constitution provides for trial by jury, it is difficult to see how we could do this. But I do think this is something that needs to be looked at and I would be surprised if it doesn't arise in some case in the next few years.

"So while generally speaking I believe in juries and I don't really want to see them limited, I do think that we may need to take some exceptional measures in the area of financial crimes," said Mr Hamilton on RTE's 'The Week in Politics'.

He said the public had no difficulty understanding many white-collar crimes, including bribery and corruption, which were not "inherently difficult".

Complex

But problems would arise if the public encountered a fraud that needed an understanding of the nature of "complex financial instruments".

He said there was a second problem for the public when these cases dragged out.

"The idea of asking members of the public to give up, perhaps, a year of their time to serve on a jury creates a real difficulty".

Mr Hamilton, who was appointed DPP in 1999, was also highly critical of a government decision to scrap a whistleblower bill in 2006.

Labour Party deputy Pat Rabbitte had introduced a private members' Whistleblowers' Protection Bill in 1999.

Mr Hamilton said the economic consequences of not having a robust system of financial regulation were very grave.

But the main reason the Government did not introduce whistleblower legislation was that it "might cut across our system of light regulation".

He said a Whistleblowers' Charter was needed because people were afraid to come forward as they might be victimised at work or lose their jobs. "Quite simply, if you don't have strong whistleblower legislation you probably have no case because you have no witness and no evidence," he added.

Irish Independent

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