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Lowry fails to get Revenue trial stopped

Former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry has failed in his attempt to have a trial relating to alleged Revenue offences stopped in the circuit court.

Applications were made by the Independent TD's legal team in recent months to have the four charges he faces - relating to allegations that he filed incorrect tax returns in 2003 and 2007 - struck out or to have the case permanently stayed.

However, Judge Thomas Teehan said yesterday at Clonmel Circuit Court he could find "no reason" to stay the trial.

arguable

He said that it was "not even arguable" that the court should stop the trial based on a submission by the defence that Michael Lowry had been "singled out by various agencies of the State for extraordinarily rigorous scrutiny".

Mr Lowry (60), of Glenreigh, Holycross, Co Tipperary, was in court for yesterday's judgement but was not called on to speak.

The judge agreed to transfer the trial from Co Tipperary to the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, following an application in July from the State, based on the amount of people who have voted for Mr Lowry in elections, as it "seems to me that the possibility of objective bias could not be avoided even if the most careful precautions were taken".

Judge Teehan said that approximately 30pc of the entire jury panel in Tipperary North, "regularly entrust Mr Lowry over many years with high public office".

The reasons given by the defence in October and November for the application for a strike-out were on the grounds of insufficient evidence; wrongful exposure of taxpayer information to the public; pre-trial publicity; abuse of process; no outstanding tax liability on Mr Lowry's part; and an alleged offence against the administration of justice.

In relation to pre-trial publicity, the judge said the portrayal by the defence of media coverage of the investigation into Mr Lowry as "irreparably damaging," especially coverage in one Sunday newspaper, was "not borne out by the examples which have been referred in the course of argument before me".

Judge Teehan referred to one example given by the defence, a headline in the Sunday Independent from last year which stated "Lowry tax probe now 'criminal' - Revenue" and said this "is in fact true and accurate and, moreover, is no more damaging than a similar assertion relating to any person under criminal investigation".

importance

The Judge said it was important to state that the recordings known as "the Lowry tapes," which formed the basis for a number of newspaper articles last year, do not form part of the prosecution case, so he did not accept the importance which the defence tried to attribute to them.

He adjourned the case until January 20 in Clonmel and it will then be transferred to Dublin.

hnews@herald.ie


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