Jury in Sean Fitzpatrick trial discharged

CourtsBy Sunday World
Sean Fitzpatrick leaving court
Sean Fitzpatrick leaving court

The jury has been discharged in the trial of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick over the alleged failure to disclose millions of euros in loans to the bank’s auditors.

The jury has been discharged in the trial of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick over the alleged failure to disclose millions of euros in loans to the bank’s auditors.

The end of the trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court comes after seven weeks of legal argument in the absence of the jury.

Mr FitzPatrick (66) of Whitshed Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow had pleaded not guilty to 27 offences under the 1990 Companies Act. These included 21 charges of making a misleading, false or deceptive statement to auditors and six charges of furnishing false information in the years 2002 to 2007.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring told the jury of six women and five men today that legal issues which had delayed the trial since April had been dealt with and disposed of earlier in the day.

She said that the trial was supposed to take eight weeks but it would now take longer than that.

Judge Ring said this meant the trial could not continue at the moment and she was going to have to discharge the jury.

“We will have to, at the appropriate time, engage another jury to deal with this matter,” she said.

She set a new trial date for October 5 next.

Judge Ring told the jurors that even though they had not heard any evidence, they had played a vital role in the trial. She said the legal issues could not have been argued if a jury had not been empanelled.

She said they would not be alone in thinking this was an odd procedure. She said it was unfortunate that, in this century, the courts had not come up with procedures more in keeping with the way business should be done.

The judge said the courts were still labouring under procedures that were clearly out of date. But she said that was the way it was. "I just work here," she said.

She told the jurors that they had been totally inconvenienced and badly treated by the system. She excused them from jury service for seven years.

The charges before the court were brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions after an investigation by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) into the alleged annual “warehousing” of loans by Mr FitzPatrick before the failed bank's end of year financial statements.

There have been 27 days of the trial with the majority of these involving day long legal wrangling between barristers for Mr FitzPatrick and for the prosecution. Both legal teams consisted of two senior counsel, two junior counsel and a number of solicitors.

The jury was sworn in on 14 April but no evidence was ever opened to it as legal argument began on 16 April. It was supposed to take two days but continued for seven weeks.

Last month Judge Ring apologised to the jurors for the repeated delays. She told them than a witness illness was causing serious timetable problems.

Mr FitzPatrick is accused of failing to disclose to Anglo's auditors, Ernst and Young, the true amount of loans to him or people connected with him.

The prosecution claims he authorised arrangements to ensure that the balance of those loans would be reduced or appear to be reduced at the end of the bank's financial year and failed to tell the auditors about those arrangements.

He is also accused of failing to tell the auditors about arrangements between Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society in connection with loans to him by Irish Nationwide.

Finally he is accused of producing financial statements about the value of loans to Anglo's directors which failed to include the true amounts outstanding by him to the bank.