SOLICITOR Elio Malocco, who was jailed for five years for forgery lost his appeal yesterday against his conviction and sentence. The Court of Criminal Appeal turned down all grounds of appeal and also refused to reduce the sentence.
Malocco (40), of Oldcourt Avenue, Firhouse, Co Dublin, is a former director of the Irish Press group and also acted as solicitor to the group.
In May 1995, he was convicted by a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on fraud charges involving £68,500, money which he had been given by the Irish Press to deal with libel actions.
In the circuit court, Judge Dominic Lynch said there had been no attempt at restitution. Malocco had been entrusted with funds and the jury had found him guilty of dishonesty.
In the appeal, it was submitted that there had been no evidence before the jury of intention to defraud. It was also submitted that Malocco had no involvement in the financial transactions at the practice, although he did write cheques.
In relation to evidence of Malocco's signature on documents, it was claimed no handwriting expert had been produced.
Giving judgment yesterday, Mr Justice Keane said the appeal was in respect of Malocco's conviction on six counts of forging documents and uttering forged documents.
At the relevant time, Malocco was a partner in the firm of Malocco and Killeen, solicitors.
The case for the prosecution was in essence that Malocco obtained funds from the Irish Press group for the purpose of either finding compromises or making lodgments in respect of specific proceedings for libel by certain persons against the group; that the funds were never applied for tliose purposes; and that with a view to misleading his clients into a belief that they had been so applied, Malocco forged certain documents and furnished them to his clients.
Mr Justice Keane, who sat with Mr Justice Barr and Mr Justice Lavan, said it had been submitted by counsel for Malocco that in the event of the conviction upheld the sentence should be reduced as being, in the circumstances, excessively severe.
Counsel had relied in support of that submission on the previous good character of Malocco, the fact that he had no previous convictions and the "catastrophic" consequences for him of the conviction itself, leading, as it inevitably would, to his being struck off as a solicitor.
Mr Justice Keane said the trial judge, in imposing sentence, had taken into account all the matters urged on him. He had stated, however, that he had to have regard to the very serious nature of the offences, involving as they did a grave breach of trust.
The trial judge had also stated that he had to consider that there had been no serious attempt at restitution and that he was obliged to ensure the protection of the public, and in particular persons in the position of the injured party, from such frauds.
The Court of Criminal Appeal could not interfere with the sentence unless it was satisfied the trial judge erred in principle.
Having carefully considered the submissions, it could not detect any error in principle in the approach adopted in the case and was satisfied no ground had been established for interfering with the sentence.