Thursday 12 December 2019

Sean FitzPatrick challenges refusal of legal costs for trial, High Court hears

Sean FitzPatrick
Sean FitzPatrick

Tim Healy

FORMER Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick has challenged a ruling that he is not entitled to the legal costs of his defence for his 48-day trial in which he was cleared of charges of giving illegal loans.

Earlier this year, Mr FitzPatrick (66), of Greystones, Co Wicklow, was acquitted at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of 16 counts of providing illegal loans to the Quinn family and the Maple 10 group of investors to buy shares in Anglo.

Last June, Circuit Court Judge Martin Nolan rejected an argument from Mr FitzPatrick's legal team that he should not be liable for the costs of his defence, which are thought to be substantial, despite his acquittal.

The State had opposed the costs application on the grounds that the prosecution was in "the public interest".

Today, at the High Court, lawyers for Mr FitzPatrick, who was not present in court, said Judge Nolan's decision should be quashed and that he should be paid his costs.

Mr FitzPatrick claimed the ruling is wrong in law, unreasonable and irrational.

It is submitted Judge Nolan applied the wrong legal test when ruling the businessman was not entitled to his costs.

The decision not to award costs went against case law, which it is claimed, states the starting point for any application for costs in a criminal trial is the outcome. 

In this case, Mr FitzPatrick was acquitted of all charges both by the jury and by the direction of the trial judge.

Judge Nolan did not use the acquittal as the starting point in relation to the application for costs and referred to the acquittal just once in his ruling. An acquittal is not a neutral fact, it is claimed.

In his ruling, the Judge said that before he would levy costs against any entity, some fault would have to be shown in the discharge of their function. Judge Nolan said he could not see that in this case, and Mr FitzPatrick's case could not succeed.

In his High Court challenge, Mr FitzPatrick said this was where Judge Nolan fell into error.

In his action against Judge Nolan and the DPP, Mr FitzPatrick seeks to quash the refusal of costs decision.

Leave to bring the challenge was granted, on an ex parte (one-side only represented ) basis, by Ms Justice Marie Baker who made the matter returnable to a date in November.

During his trial,  it emerged that insurers refused to cover Mr FitzPatrick legal costs.  Mr FitzPatrick's defence was privately funded after he was refused directors and officers' liability (D&O) cover.

He did not seek legal aid.

In early June he emerged from bankruptcy.

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