Ethical standards matter, says judge as he sentences former An Bord Pleanála board member

Paul Hyde is sentenced to two months for failing to declare his interests in 2015 and 2018

Ethical standards in public life matter, the judge sentencing the former deputy chairman of An Bord Pleanála to jail at Bandon District Court said on Friday, and anyone statutorily obliged to disclose any interest should comply fully and carefully with their legal requirements.

Paul Hyde (50) had pleaded guilty earlier this week to two breaches of failing to declare his interests in 2015 and 2018 and on Friday, Judge James McNulty sentenced him to two months in jail on each count with the sentences to run concurrently.

Judge McNulty said Hyde, with an address at Castlefields, Baltimore, Co Cork, ought to have been fully aware of his legal requirements under section 147 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 to fully disclose all his interests when he became a member of An Bord Pleanála.

Hyde, who was appointed to the board of An Bord Pleanála in 2014 by then minister for the environment, Phil Hogan, and appointed deputy chairman in 2019 by Hogan’s successor, Eoghan Murphy, immediately lodged appeal papers against the sentence and walked free from court.


But the judge left him in no doubt about the seriousness of his offences, pointing out that An Bord Pleanála needed to be able to “carry out its work in an independent manner that embodies the public service ethos of integrity, impartiality and a desire to serve the public interest”.

Prosecution barrister John Berry BL told the court the prosecution was the first of its kind where an officer of An Bord Pleanála had failed to fully disclose their interest which prompted Judge McNulty to examine the creation of the offences under the Planning and Development Act 2000.

In a lengthy judgment, Judge McNulty said a similar case arose from the Planning Tribunal where former minister Ray Burke had filed a false or incorrect tax return and while unlike Burke, Hyde had not benefited financially from his wrongdoing, he believed it involved a similar breach of trust.

Accepting that unlike in the Burke case, there had been no loss of revenue to the State as a result of Hyde’s offending, he said he felt he was obliged to impose a custodial sentence to mark “the seriousness of the offence and the high level of culpability on the part of the accused”.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times