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Breifne O'Brien loses case but gets one-year stay on trial


Breifne O'Brien. Photo: Collins

Breifne O'Brien. Photo: Collins

Breifne O'Brien. Photo: Collins

BUSINESSMAN Breifne O'Brien has lost his High Court bid to have his trial for offences including theft and deception permanently blocked.

Mr O'Brien, Kilmore, Monkstown Grove, Monkstown, Dublin, claimed that he cannot get a fair trial because of significant amounts of adverse publicity he has received in both the print and broadcast media.


In his ruling today the President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, while clearing the way for the trial to go ahead, said that Mr O'Briens trial should be put on hold for twelve months.


This was due to reservations he had about the trial proceedings "in the immediate future" due to the media coverage Mr O'Brien has received.


Mr O'Brien, who denies all of the charges against him has been sent forward for trial before a judge and jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. The DPP opposed the application and argued that the trial should be allowed proceed.


Mr O'Brien is accused of 19 charges of theft involving sums totalling around €11m from five individuals between 2006 and 2008 and 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.


In his High Court action Mr O'Brien (51)  wanted the court to make orders against the DPP including one permanently halting his prosecution.


In his judgment Mr Justice Kearns said that it was "undeniable" that there been "extensive factual and emotional publicity concerning Mr O'Brien."


However when assessing what impact this publicity might have on a jury at Mr O'Brien's trial he was satisfied that the trial should be allowed proceed.


The Judge also said that certain matters complained of by Mr O'Brien such as allegedly prejudicial comments by a judge or a chapter in a book had long been cured by the operation of a fade factor.


"In any liberal democracy the press and media must be free to expose alleged wrongdoing. Otherwise one would have to query whether national newspapers and tv outlets would have any worthwhile function beyond reporting on sports events or the screening of game shows if deprived of this central role.


However given the nature and volume of the newspaper and tv reporting about Mr O'Brien  the Judge said that if the trial was to start any time soon it would be "characterised as carrying a significant risk of being unfair."


He directed that the trial should be stayed for 12 months from the date of the ruling. He also said that the Mr O'Brien was no precluded from bringing a further application to the High Court if there were to be a sign

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