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Seven more months: Seán FitzPatrick has succeeded in getting his trial pushed back

He had been due to go on trial for 27 offences in October. It’ll now happen in May.

Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

First published 12.53 pm

THE CRIMINAL TRIAL of former Anglo chairman Seán FitzPatrick has been put back until next May.

It follows a ruling by the High Court this afternoon.

The court was asked to decide whether the trial could go ahead this October, as scheduled.

FitzPatrick’s lawyers had been looking for the trial to be postponed either indefinitely or for a fixed period of time of at least 12 months.

Justice Michael Moriarty noted that Bernard Condon SC for FitzPatrick had made a “prudent change of course” in switching his focus to a temporary postponement.

The judge added that even such a postponement is not a “remedy to be acceded to glibly”.

Last month, Judge Martin Nolan rejected an application from FitzPatrick’s legal team, who argued that the former Anglo Irish Bank chairman would not be able to get a fair trial.

His lawyers appealed that decision, and Justice Moriarty issued his decision shortly after 12.30pm this afternoon.

FitzPatrick (66) of Whitshed Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow had pleaded not guilty to 27 offences under the 1990 Companies Act.

These included 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.

In their application earlier this month, Condon SC for FitzPatrick had argued that a recent case involving other Anglo officials had resulted in a “cascade of sludge” being visited on the head of FitzPatrick.

Judge Nolan rejected their application but noted that the case against FitzPatrick was unique because he has been the subject of “huge criticism, ridicule and odium since 2008″.

In today’s decision, Judge Moriarty said that an individual is entitled to a fair trial but that their “high notoriety” must not prevent them from going on trial.

He said that he had been “a casual observer” in the recent case of the three other Anglo officials and that he had noted the media attention on the case.

He said that the volume of coverage was exceptional in its “sheer number of intensity”.

“I fully approve that, in any liberal democracy, the media must be free to expose wrongdoing,” he said, before adding that the “huge volume” of coverage created difficulties.

He also said that some of media coverage had displayed “a high level of schadenfreude in the applicant’s (Fitzpatrick) circumstances”.

Some of this coverage he noted may create “feelings that were not favourable to the applicant”.

These “unhappy succession of events” meant that the case required “some deferral”, ruled Judge Moriarty.

He put the case back until 25 May 2016.

“It does not mean that all antipathy to the applicant will have subsided when the trial re starts but I believe some particular elements will have subsided by then,” the judge said.

Note: Comments have been closed on this article as court proceedings are ongoing.

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Rónán Duffy

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