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Ex-TD Liam Cosgrave fails in bid to block criminal trial

FORMER Fine Gael TD Liam Cosgrave has lost a bid to halt his criminal trial in connection with alleged corrupt payments for land rezonings.

The Supreme Court, by a three-to-two majority, gave the go-ahead for his trial to proceed on charges relating to votes in 1992 on the rezoning of lands in Carrickmines, Dublin, owned by Jackson Way Properties, and the successful rezoning of part of these lands in 1997.

Mr Cosgrave, who is also a former councillor and senator, of Merrion Park, Blackrock, Co Dublin, has denied the charges that were brought in October, 2010.

He tried to stop the trial by bringing a challenge in the High Court which last year rejected his application.

He appealed to the Supreme Court which yesterday upheld the High Court decision.

Mr Cosgrave claimed the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to prosecute him was an abuse of process because there was also an unjustifiable delay in bringing the charges and there was a risk of an unfair trial.

Yesterday, Chief Justice Susan Denham, with whom Mr Justice Nial Fennelly and Mr Justice John Murray agreed, found there was not an abuse of process or risk of an unfair trial.

The abuse of process issued centred on the fact that Mr Cosgrave had in 2005 been given a community service sentence after pleading guilty to knowingly making a false or misleading declaration in relation to receiving political donations in excess of IR£500 in 1997

Then in 2010, new charges of corruption were brought against him under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1916 and the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995.

Ms Justice Denham said there was a general rule of common law that a person should not be tried on new charges that are grounded on the same facts on which he or she has previously been tried.

Rezoning

The rule did not apply here because the current charges were not founded on the same set of facts as the 2005 charges.

While both prosecutions arose out of a series of statements made by former lobbyist Frank Dunlop, who paid councillors for rezoning votes, the judge was satisfied the DPP had a valid reason for not prosecuting Mr Cosgrave for corruption as far back as 2004.

Mr Dunlop had been sentenced to two years in prison, with six months suspended, after pleading guilty to corruption in May 2009.

The State had valid reasons for not calling Mr Dunlop as a witness until the lobbyist had been dealt with by the courts, the judge said.

Mr Cosgrave also knew of the corruption allegations in 2004 when they were put to him by officers of the Criminal Assets Bureau, the judge said.

In the special circumstances of this case, it was just and appropriate for the DPP to await the conviction of Mr Dunlop before bringing the charges against Mr Cosgrave in 2010, she said.

Mr Justice Donal O'Donnell, in his judgment, said the values of our criminal justice system, whereby a person is convicted, sentenced, rehabilitated and resumes their place in society, are subverted if that person is subjected to repeated or sequential prosecutions.

Irish Independent