Dunlop’s ill-health prompts collapse of corruption trial
Director of Public Prosecutions decides case no longer to be pursued
James Kennedy with his wife Antoinette, family and his legal team leaving Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday. Photograph: Collins Courts.
A corruption trial involving businessman Jim Kennedy, a councillor and two former councillors collapsed yesterday after the Director of Public Prosecutions decided the case would no longer be pursued.
It followed the presentation of a medical report to Judge Mary Ellen Ring which indicated the key witness, former lobbyist Frank Dunlop, was ill.
It is understood he is suffering from a serious heart condition that is unlikely to improve sufficiently to allow him to continue giving evidence or to give evidence in the future.
The DPP entered a nolle prosequi in the case yesterday morning, meaning she no longer intends to pursue the charges against the defendants.
Mr Kennedy (66), with an address at Queen’s Quay, Gibraltar, had denied giving Mr Dunlop £25,000 in 1991 to bribe councillors to vote in favour of rezoning land at Carrickmines in Dublin. He had pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption in connection with the rezoning.
Independent Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown councillor Tony Fox (72) of Mountainview Park, Churchtown, Dublin; former Fianna Fáil councillor Colm Mc Grath (56) of Swiftwood, Saggart; and former Fine Gael councillor Liam Cosgrave (57) of Merrion Park, Blackrock, had also pleaded not guilty to corruptly receiving money as inducements to rezone the lands from agricultural to industrial.
On Monday, the jury was told the case against former Fianna Fáil senator and councillor Don Lydon would not be continuing. Mr Lydon (71), of Santo Antonio, Stillorgan Park Avenue, had pleaded not guilty to receiving money from Mr Dunlop in connection with Carrickmines in October 1997 when he was a councillor on Dún Laoghaire- Rathdown County Council.
Mr Dunlop had alleged in open court on Monday that he recalled giving Mr Lydon a separate sum of money, other than the £3,000 he was accused of having received for Carrickmines. Mr Lydon’s counsel, Brendan Grehan SC, had argued it would be impossible for his client to get a fair trial on account of the remark. Judge Ring had agreed, and discharged him.
Yesterday Sean Gillane SC, for the DPP, told the court he wanted to enter a nolle prosequi against the defendants and also against Mr Lydon.
Judge Ring told the jury of seven women and four men that the decision to withdraw the case would bring matters against the defendants to an end. She said it was for the DPP to decide to take that step “in light of all the circumstances”.
She thanked the jury and said it was unfortunate they and the community had been involved in a trial that had come to an end in this way.
Mr Dunlop, who had served a term in prison for 16 counts of corruption in relation to Carrickmines, had earlier given evidence that he paid a total of £19,000 to the four councillors in connection with the rezoning of the Carrickmines land. He claimed he gave Mr Lydon £3,000, that Mr Fox and Mr Cosgrave were given £7,000, and Mr McGrath £2,000.
The trial had been due to be completed by August 2nd despite an earlier break of a week due to Mr Dunlop’s ill health.
Mr Dunlop returned to give evidence on Monday, but after a morning of cross-examination, and in the absence of the jury, asked to be excused.
Mr Gillane then secured a medical report on Mr Dunlop’s condition which was given to the judge. Yesterday, Mr Gillane initially told the court, in the absence of the jury, he would ask for them to be discharged and the case re-entered with a new jury in the autumn.
But counsel for the defendants objected. Michael O’Higgins SC, for Mr Kennedy, argued the case had gone on for four weeks and he had already conducted “90 per cent plus” of his client’s defence. He would be entitled to apply to the court not to continue given the case had come this far down the road via “the scenic route”.
Judge Ring queried whether Mr Dunlop would be fit to give evidence at a later stage. Following a brief adjournment, the DPP took the decision that the case could not continue.