Today was day 126 at one of the most closely watched trials of the century so far, the trial of Sean Fitzpatrick, former Chairman and Chief Executive of Anglo Irish Bank. And, as it turns out, day 126 has become the final day, as Judge John Aylmer announced this morning that he will direct the jury to acquit Mr Fitzpatrick of all charges.
Speaking to John Murray on the Today programme, RTÉ’s legal affairs correspondent, Orla O’Donnell, described how events unfolded at the Circuit Criminal Court.
“In the last few minutes, the judge at the Circuit Criminal Court has made a ruling that Sean Fitzpatrick is going to be acquitted on all the counts he faces in relation to allegedly misleading or deceiving the auditors of Anglo Irish Bank about loans to him and to people connected to him, and the refinancing of those loans.”
Amongst the reasons Judge John Aylmer gave this morning were, according to Orla, the “unfairness of the investigation, the bias and partisan nature of the investigation. They failed to seek out information relating to Sean Fitzpatrick’s possible innocence, as well as guilt. They were trying to build a case against him, instead of conducting an investigation. Also, witnesses were coached, instead of statements being taken by Gardaí.”
On top of all that, said Orla, Judge John Aylmer “spoke about the fact that the lead investigator in this investigation had never investigated a criminal matter like this before. He had very little experience investigating such a matter.”
Is Orla O’Donnell surprised at this development? Answering that question from John Murray, she said “In one way, yes, in another way, no.” Sean Fitzpatrick, Orla said, first went on trial on these charges in 2015, but that trial was abandoned. Key to that trial collapsing was the discovery that Kevin O’Connell, the lead investigator from the Office of Corporate Enforcement, had shredded documents which may have been pertinent to the proceedings. According to Orla, the judge at the time described the shredding of those documents as “extraordinary”.
Orla O’Donnell , who was in court for these dramatic proceedings, described how there was some shock in court at the decision, including a gasp from Sean Fitzpatrick’s daughter, who hugged him when the judge’s decision was announced. Although the case is still, technically, in the charge of the jury, they will now be instructed, tomorrow morning, to acquit Mr Fitzpatrick on the charges brought against him.
“There was a lot of relief and a little bit of surprise. I think there was a feeling that some charges may have remained to go before the jury, but the judge comprehensively dismissed the case and said he would be acquitted on everything.”
So, is that it?
“That’s it. Sean Fitzpatrick doesn’t face any charges. He now walks free, essentially, from the fallout from the collapse of Anglo Irish Bank and everything that arose from that. He has been before the courts and he is now completely free of that. He has no further charges outstanding. That’s it.”
For more from The Today programme, presented by John Murray, click here.
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