Judge warns of length of Anglo trial for jurors
The former chairman of Anglo Irish Bank Seán FitzPatrick at the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin yesterday. photograph:: dara mac dónaill
The likely length of the trial of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán FitzPatrick and two other executives raises issues around how the jury is selected and retained for such a long period.
At a sitting of Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Mary Ellen Ring said the courts must take steps to present a larger than usual pool of potential jurors in light of the time they will be asked to sit on the jury for the trial of Mr Fitzpatrick (64), former finance director Willie McAteer (61) and former managing director of lending Pat Whelan (50).
Judge Ring asked if a better estimate than previously offered to the court was available for the length of time the trial may take. None was available. The court has previously heard estimates for the trial of between three and six months.
“The court is conscious that if two people in a long trial become unavailable for whatever reason, the jury is in a precarious position,” Judge Ring said.
“If the jury collapses due to the unavailability of jurors, an immediate retrial will be a problem.”
It is alleged that before Anglo was nationalised in 2009, the three accused men permitted the bank to give unlawful financial assistance, prohibited under company law, to 16 individuals – six members of the family of businessman Seán Quinn and 10 customers of the bank, known as the “Maple 10” – to buy Anglo shares.
Their trial is due to start next January.
Mr FitzPatrick also faces charges of failing to disclose an arrangement between Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society under which the building society loaned him money between 2002 and 2007, and allegedly deceiving the failed bank’s auditors in relation to his personal loans over the same period.
The three men were at the brief court hearing this morning. They have been excused from other similar “mention” hearings – where formalities around an approaching trial are addressed.
However, they must appear before the court again on November 1st for a pre-trial hearing, when they are expected to enter a plea.
Mr FitzPatrick, Mr McAteer and Mr Whelan were three among a larger group of suspects who were all in the body of the courtroom yesterday to face criminal charges for a range of alleged crimes.