First 15-person jury in State’s history to hear allegations against Anglo directors
Sean FitzPatrick, William McAteer and Pat Whelan deny 16 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to 16 individuals in July 2008
Sean FitzPatrick leaves the court following the opening day of the trial of three former Anglo Irish Bank executives. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónail
The jury in the trial of former Anglo Irish Bank directors Sean FitzPatrick, William McAteer and Pat Whelan will be “the first in the history of the State” to have 15 members.
Opening the trial, Paul O’Higgins SC for the State, told the 15 jurors that legislation had been passed to allow larger juries to be chosen in lengthy cases.
This was to prevent the risk of a trial collapsing should more than two jurors “get sick” or “die” or be unable to continue.
The three men have been charged with 16 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to 16 individuals in July 2008 to buy shares in the bank, contrary to Section 60 of the Companies Act.
Mr Whelan has also been charged with being privy to the fraudulent alteration of loan facility letters to seven individuals.
Mr FitzPatrick (65) of Greystones, Co Wicklow, Mr Mc Ateer (63) of Rathgar, Dublin, and Pat Whelan (51) of Malahide, Co Dublin, have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The start was delayed after one juror, from the jury sworn in last Friday, gave a letter to presiding judge Mr Justice Martin Nolan. After reading it, the judge said he would excuse him from service.
Another juror asked if he was fit to serve as he had discovered his sister had worked with the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation. He said he had not discussed matters with her. There were no objections from any of the counsel involved.
The judge told a panel of potential jurors from which the replacement was to be drawn that what happened in Anglo Irish Bank had become “a matter of public controversy”. He warned them they should not serve if they had strong views on the subject or if they had expressed their views on Facebook or other websites. He also warned them the trial would be a long one and listed more than 100 witnesses who would be giving evidence. He said if potential jurors knew any of them, they should not serve. They should also not serve if they had shares in a bank, were serving as gardaí, were members of the Defence Forces or served a jail term in the last 10 years.
More than 10 jurors were excused before the new juror was selected, making a jury of eight women and seven men. They are likely to sit until the end of May.
The court registrar read all 23 charges to the jury, listing the names of those who were allegedly given “unlawful financial assistance” and those who received loan facility letters that had allegedly been fraudulently altered.
In his opening statement, Mr O’Higgins said at the end of the evidence, a public ballot would take place and 12 jurors would be selected from the 15 to consider the case and reach a verdict. He acknowledged that it was “a savage system” given the time the jurors would afford to the case and it might be frustrating for those who did not get to deliberate, or it might be liberating.