Sunday 4 December 2016

Fraud cases 'too tough' for juries

Retiring DPP fears future finance trials will be overly complex

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Published 08/11/2011 | 05:00

JURIES will struggle to deal with complex financial and serious fraud trials in the future, the outgoing Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) James Hamilton admitted last night.

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Mr Hamilton, who retired from the Office of the DPP yesterday after 12 years, said he remained a passionate supporter of Ireland's jury system.

But the president of the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP), who said juries composed of the public were well-equipped to try complex cases including murders, said that they could struggle with cases involving highly complex transactions and "fancy" financial instruments.

"It won't be easy," said Mr Hamilton, who had hoped to see out the completion of ongoing investigations into the banking sector before his retirement.

"I really wonder whether most ordinary people will be able to follow that complex material," said Mr Hamilton, who has previously stated that consideration needs to be given to whether jury trials are appropriate in fraud cases.

Mr Hamilton, the former head of the Office of the Attorney General, said yesterday that the highlight of his career had been the role played by that office during the period of the Good Friday Agreement.

But he conceded that the 2004 controversy surrounding the trial and subsequent acquittal of retired Circuit Court judge Brian Curtin had been a "low point" for the Office of the DPP.

However, he refused to elaborate on the issue as he is prevented from discussing individual cases.

Investigation

Judge Curtin was charged with possessing images of child pornography after a high-profile investigation dubbed Operation Amethyst. But he was acquitted in 2004 after a trial judge directed that a search warrant to raid his home was out of date.

Mr Hamilton, who continues as president of the IAP for another two years, will also continue working for the Council of Europe's Commission for Democracy through Law, known as the Venice Commission.

He admitted that the money earned by a few legal professionals was "unconscionable" to many people.

But he added that it was "at the least, a necessary evil" compared to living in a country without an independent legal system.

Mr Hamilton will be succeeded by Claire Loftus, the first woman and the first solicitor to hold the post of DPP.

Ms Loftus is expected to continue a project, started by Mr Hamilton, of giving reasons to victims of crime why some cases are not prosecuted.

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Irish Independent

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