FitzPatrick loses application to have State pay his trial costs
Judge says DPP conducted Anglo case in a ‘fair, principled and reasonable manner’
Seán FitzPatrick after he was acquitted in March of all charges against him, outside the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
The State does not have to pay the legal costs of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick arising from his recent criminal trial, a judge has ruled.
Judge Martin Nolan yesterday rejected an application by Mr FitzPatrick’s legal team that he should not be liable for the cost of defending himself during the 48-day trial, which saw him acquitted on all charges.
The judge sided with lawyers for the State who had challenged the costs application on the grounds that the prosecution was in “the public interest”. Judge Nolan said he was rejecting the costs application because he believed the Director of Public Prosecutions conducted the case in a “fair, principled and reasonable manner.”
He said he could find no fault in how the DPP brought the case and that for this reason Mr FitzPatrick’s application could not succeed. One of the prosecution’s objections to the application was that it was not clear how Mr FitzPatrick met his own legal costs and therefore, he might not be entitled to them.
At the hearing earlier this month, Paul O’Higgins SC, for the DPP, questioned how the former Anglo chairman could have paid his lawyers during the trial when he was an undischarged bankrupt.
Mr O’Higgins said he assumed Mr FitzPatrick’s lawyers were being paid throughout the proceedings but that it was not clear by whom. He said a requirement for the granting of costs was that the defendant actually had to bear those costs. Mr O’Higgins said he wrote to the defence inquiring about the matter but received no reply.
Judge Nolan said it seemed that Mr FitzPatrick (66) was “responsible for his costs at this stage” despite not hearing any submissions from the defence on the matter in open court.
In rejecting the costs application, he said that it may appear unfair to the layman that an acquitted man should bear his own costs but he pointed to several examples of case law which supported his decision.
At the previous hearing, Michael O’Higgins SC, for Mr FitzPatrick, said he was seeking all of the defence costs arising from the 48-day trial and pre-trial hearings. The defence team comprised of a two junior, a senior counsel and a solicitor. Mr O’Higgins described the legal bill as “enormous” but did not specify a figure.
Mr O’Higgins said Mr FitzPatrick had co-operated fully with investigators and answered all questions fully. His legal team had facilitated the prosecution in every way possible and made “all possible concessions”, which considerably shortened the length of the trial.
He said that the case against his client was “extremely thin” and based on two answers he gave during his Garda interviews. The DPP was entitled to bring extremely thin cases but “is not entitled to expect the citizen to carry the can” when those cases failed.
Mr FitzPatrick, Greystones, Co Wicklow, was acquitted in March of 16 counts of providing illegal loans to the Quinn family and the Maple Ten group of investors.