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Jurors at Sean FitzPatrick trial told they'll be needed until well into next year

The trial, which has been running since September, has yet to pass the hearing of allegations stage.

File Photo. 3/11/2016. Former CEO and Chairman of Anglo Irish Bank will face trial tomorrow when the prosecution will call its first witness. He is charged with making misleading, false or deceptive statements to auditors Ernst & Young between 2002 and 20 Sean FitzPatrick Source: Eamonn Farrell

THE TRIAL OF former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick for allegedly misleading auditors about multi-million euro loans is significantly overrunning, a judge has said.

A jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard earlier this month that loans taken out by Mr FitzPatrick, his wife and family members increased from in the region of €10 million in 2002 to around €100 million in 2007.

The State’s case is that the amount of these loans was “artificially reduced” for a period of two weeks around the bank’s financial end of year statement by short term loans from other sources, including Irish Nationwide Building Society, and that these loans were not disclosed to the bank’s auditors Ernst and Young, allegedly contrary to the 1990 Companies Act.

Mr FitzPatrick (68) of Greystones, Co Wicklow, has pleaded not guilty to 21 charges of making a misleading, false or deceptive statement to auditors and six charges of furnishing false information in the years 2002 to 2007.

This morning Judge John Aylmer told the jury, who have so far only heard a summary of the allegation, that the trial would now likely run to the end of February next year.

He said this was the worst case scenario timeline. He told the jurors that the case is “overrunning to a significant extent” because of continuing legal argument.

Legal argument

The trial began last September when a specially enlarged jury of 15 was empanelled over the course of two days. The jury was told then the trial would finish by Christmas.

Since then there have been weeks of legal argument in the absence of the jury and two jurors have been excused from service because of health and professional reasons.

Judge Aylmer asked the jurors today to discuss amongst themselves whether they were in a position to continue serving on the jury. After a brief period the jury returned to court and the jury forewoman told the court that everyone is happy to continue serving.

She said there may be problems if it goes into March as one juror has holidays booked for then.

Judge Aylmer thanked the jurors for their patience, telling them: “we assure you we are all grateful for it.”

The judge told the jurors that the current legal issue would be dealt with by next Wednesday and they could begin hearing the State’s evidence then.

He said there is an estimated six weeks of evidence in the case. There is also another two weeks needed for another legal issue to be discussed in the jury’s absence, which will bring the case into early February.

Judge Aylmer said it is very difficult to predict how long legal arguments take.

“We are trying to give you the worst case scenario. We’ve gone twice the time on the second [legal] issues. Nobody can be blamed. These things take their course and they can’t be rushed,” Judge Aylmer said.

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Declan Brennan

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