DPP defends pace of inquiries into Anglo

 

THE LENGTH of time involved in deciding to prosecute cases involving Anglo Irish Bank is due to the nature of the adversarial system rather than a lack of resources in his office, the Director of Public Prosecutions has said.

James Hamilton told his 12th annual conference on Saturday that there were some current misunderstandings about what was happening in the Anglo case.

Earlier this month Mr Justice Peter Kelly expressed his concern about the length of time the investigation was taking.

“In our system, investigators investigate and prosecutors decide whether to prosecute,” Mr Hamilton said.

“The prosecutor does not direct the investigation and, except in minor cases delegated to them, the investigators do not decide whether to prosecute. Only the prosecutor has this function.”

Following the completion of an investigation, the prosecutor prosecuted, the defence defended and the judge adjudicated between the parties, he said. This was in contrast to inquisitorial systems where the judge supervised the work of the prosecutor.

Mr Hamilton said there was one unusual aspect to the Anglo investigation in that, because of the complex and extensive nature of the investigation, he, the Office of Corporate Enforcement and the Garda authorities had agreed that files might be sent to his office before the investigation was completed.

This was so that the DPP’s office could begin to consider the issues.

Referring to resources, he said that when the scale of the investigation became apparent before the last election, he sought additional resources and was given a small but significant number of lawyers on short-term contract.

When he had sought additional resources from the Department of Finance in the past, he had always found it and the Government willing to engage with his requests.

There had always been an understanding that a functioning criminal justice system was not an optional extra, it was a core function of the State, he said.

“The fact that a prosecution decision has not yet been taken is not due to any question of lack of resources,” Mr Hamilton added.

“If the situation changes in the future and I need additional resources I will not be slow to ask for them.”

On his decision three years ago to introduce a pilot scheme giving reasons for decisions not to prosecute in cases where people had died, he said he had received 19 such requests so far, of which 14 were fatal road crashes.

In 10 cases, detailed reasons were given. In three cases where the request was declined, cases arising from the deaths were before the courts. In the fourth case, the matter was still being investigated actively by the Garda. Five other cases were still pending.

While 19 requests were fewer than expected, it was not an insignificant number and he hoped the response gave some comfort to the bereaved families.

He said it was his intention to extend the scheme to cases involving serious sexual crimes, almost certainly on a phased basis.

Yesterday, Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on justice Dara Calleary called on Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to make a Dáil statement on the DPP’s comments about the Anglo investigation.

“I am deeply concerned that the comments from the DPP this weekend have left the impression that the State no longer feels a sense of urgency about the Anglo investigation . . . ” Mr Calleary said.

“Just months ago when Alan Shatter was in opposition, he was extremely vocal about the Anglo investigation and the need to secure prosecutions without delay. I am concerned that the Minister appears to have lost this sense of urgency.”