Tuesday 12 December 2017

Judge raises concerns over availability of jurors in trial of former Anglo Irish executives

Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

A judge has raised concerns over the availability of jurors for the trial of former Anglo Irish Bank chief executive and chairman Sean FitzPatrick and two senior executives.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring said an extended jury panel may be needed to select 12 jurors for the complex case, which is expected to last between three and six months.

She said the Court Service will have to make arrangements to have a larger panel available for start of the trial on January 13 next year at the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin.

"I am anxious from an administrative position to know how large a group of people may be required in light of the commitment they are being asked to give," the judge said.

FitzPatrick, 64, former finance director William McAteer, 62, and former managing director of lending Pat Whelan, 50, face 16 charges of trying to falsely inflate the toxic lender's share price in 2008.

The judge excused all three from any further mentions of the case until a pre-trial hearing on November 1, when they are expected to enter a plea to each charge.

The 16 charges against each man are linked to loans of €451m in an alleged plot involving the family of bankrupt former billionaire Sean Quinn and a golden circle of clients hand picked to invest in stock to prop up the share price.

The judge said the court was conscious that under present provisions if two people in trial became unavailable for whatever reason, it leaves the jury in a precarious position.

"All it needs is for one more to become unavailable to start again," she said.

"If a jury collapses because of the unavailability of jurors, recommencing immediately would be problematic."

All three men were dressed in suits and did not address the court during the short hearing. FitzPatrick and Whelan sat together on one side of the public gallery, with McAteer alone on the other.

Una Ni Raifeartaigh, senior counsel for the State, told the judge the discovery of documents connected with the probe was ongoing and said there was no better estimate for how long the trial would last.

The court previously heard there were about 24 million documents to be disclosed, studied and cut back.

The case will be mentioned again on May 8.

Separately, FitzPatrick has been charged and sent forward for trial on 12 counts of giving auditors false or misleading information on directors' loans of at least €140m over a six-year period.

That case has been adjourned to the Circuit Criminal Court on March 22.

Press Association

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