Monday 22 January 2018

Anglo trial proves our juries can be trusted

A workman removes the Anglo Irish Bank sign from outside the bank's headquarters in St Stephens Green. Photo: Damien Eagers
A workman removes the Anglo Irish Bank sign from outside the bank's headquarters in St Stephens Green. Photo: Damien Eagers

ALTHOUGH former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick walked free of all criminal charges, few parties emerged unscathed from the 11-week long Anglo trial. The one exception was the jury who tried Mr Fitzpatrick – who found him not guilty of all charges – and his co-accused Pat Whelan and William McAteer who face up to five years in prison after being convicted of providing illegal loans to the so-called Maple 10.

The Anglo trial prompted concerns that lay juries would not be able to last the pace of a six-month prosecution – or traverse the highly technical landscape of company law and complex financial transactions. The concerns were not entirely without justification.

The dramatic 2005 collapse of the longest ever fraud trial in Britain, which cost £60m, prompted a serious debate about the appropriateness of jury trial in complex cases. The Irish Government moved to address concerns about availability of juries by amending our laws to allow an enlarged jury panel of 15 to hear lengthy cases. The Anglo trial jury was the first 15-strong panel in Irish law. A juror was discharged mid-trial, but 14 of the number remained for the duration – and 12 ultimately decided.

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