Sunday 16 December 2018

Former Fine Gael politician found guilty of corruption says his conviction should be quashed

Fred Forsey Photo: Collins Court
Fred Forsey Photo: Collins Court

Aodhan O'Faolain

A former Fine Gael town councillor who received the longest prison sentence for corruption ever handed down by the Irish courts says his conviction should be quashed.

Fred Forsey Jnr (46), of Coolagh Road, Abbeyside, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, was convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act in connection with his receipt in 2006 of €60,000, and two payments of €10,000 from a property developer who had an interest in a planning permission for the development of land at Ballygagin, Co Waterford.

He was also accused of behaving corruptly in trying to persuade officials and councillors in Waterford County Council to grant permission for the development, and when that was refused, attempting to alter the zoning of the land in the Waterford Co Development Plan.

It was further alleged he tried to get Dungarvan UDC, which he was formerly an elected member of, to bring the lands into its control.

He denied the charges and claimed the monies were loans.

In 2012 a jury at Waterford Circuit Criminal Court found him guilty and he was sentenced to six years imprisonment with the final two suspended.

In July, 2016, the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal against his conviction.

Last year he was given permission to bring an appeal against his conviction before the Supreme Court on grounds his case raised matters of public importance or that it is in the interests of justice. 

The appeal, heard on Tuesday, involves a challenge to the legality of a presumption of corruption against a holder of public office contained in Section 4 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The prosecution has relied on the presumption that the section imposes an obligation on the accused, in this case Mr Forsey, to disprove corruption.

The second point raised in the appeal is the scope of of a person's office or position in the context of of a charge of corruption.

In submissions on his behalf, Remy Farrell SC. point out his client has served his sentence, which was longest in the history of the state for corruption, and the conviction should be quashed.

Any issue of a retrial would be a matter for the DPP, counsel said.

Denis Vaughan Buckley SC, for the DPP, opposed the appeal, and argued that the conviction should remain undisturbed.

Counsel said the prosecution case was overwhelming and the evidence was such to enable the jury to comfortably come to the unanimous view beyond a reasonable doubt that Forsey had committed the offences.

The five judge court reserved its decision.

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