Anglo trial 'raises jury issues'

Former Anglo Irish Bank chairman and chief executive Sean FitzPatrick leaves court in December after being charged with deceiving the failed bank?s auditors in relation to his personal loans. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire.

Former Anglo Irish Bank chairman and chief executive Sean FitzPatrick leaves court in December after being charged with deceiving the failed bank?s auditors in relation to his personal loans. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire.

Wed, Mar 6, 2013, 00:00

A judge presiding over a court hearing related to the trial next year of former executives of Anglo Irish Bank has said the proposed length of the case 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 former Anglo chairman and chief executive Sean 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.

Judge Ring added a larger than normal panel of potential jurors would need to be made available from which the selection of the 12-person jury could be made in light of the significant commitment of time the jurors would be asked to give.

“The court is conscious that if two people in a long trial become unavailable for whatever reason, the jury is in a precarious position. If the jury collapses due to the unavailability of jurors, an immediate retrial will be a problem.”

“All it needs is for one more to become unavailable to start again,” she said.

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.

Separately, Mr FitzPatrick 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 present 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.

The mention of the case in court this morning was among a number of criminal cases during the morning session and Mr FitzPatrick, Mr McAteer and Mr Whelan were three among a larger group suspects all in the body of the court room to face criminal charges for a range of alleged crimes.