Lawyers for three former Anglo Irish Bank executives due to go on trial next January have asked for a single judge to “take control” of the pre-trial process amid concerns over adverse publicity.
Senior Counsel Brendan Grehan told the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court it was vital that “an air of calm be restored to the public from which a jury will be drawn” in the six months before the men go on trial in January.
He said it simply was not possible to have a fair trial when a recent “media frenzy was whipping up a lynch mob mentality”.
Mr Grehan, who represents former Anglo executive Pat Whelan, said there had been ongoing coverage of matters, but in particular in the last five weeks, there was “quite an amount of general adverse media coverage of a certain category of person” the defendants might fall into.
“That is why it needs to be taken control of by a judge,” he said.
He said the assignment of a particular judge to deal with the trial would speed up the pre-trial process and allow directions to be given to the parties and to the media.
Prosecution and defence lawyers have been pressing for a single judge to take over the management of the case to deal with pre-trial issues.
Adjourning the case until next Thursday, Judge Martin Nolan said that no special trial judge had been appointed and all applications would be dealt with “in the ordinary way”.
Senior Counsel Michael O’Higgins for former Anglo chairman Sean FitzPatrick said he also had “serious concerns” about publicity and he was aware the “DPP was taking steps in this regard which would come to fruition next week”.
“It used to be said the fade factor was six months, but a recent High Court judgment would suggest a new period of one year,” he said.
Mr Fitzpatrick would be within his rights to request the trial not take place until next summer, but this was “exactly what he did not want”, according to Mr O’Higgins.
However, he said if there were any “further elements of provocation” designed to empassion the public, this may change.
Prosecuting Counsel Una Ní Rafeartaigh said the issue of publicity was also of concern in a general sense to the prosecution and they would not disagree with Mr Grehan.
She said it was “important that in the last six months the media would be mindful of the dangers of matters being published which might lead to a postponement of the trial”.
The trial of the bank’s former chairman Sean Fitzpatrick and two former directors was mentioned today to check on the progress of the case.
A disclosure hearing could not take place as defence lawyers said they had only received a large volume of documents in recent days and needed more time to assess them.
Ms Ní Rafeartaigh said all documents in the hands of the prosecution had been handed over and it was information in the hands of third parties causing any delays.
She said they had no power to enforce disclosure or deadlines, but most third parties had been co-operative.
Mr FitzPatrick, 65, of Whitshed Road, Greystones; William McAteer, 62, of Auburn Villas, Rathgar; and Pat Whelan, 51, of Coast Road, Malahide have been charged with 16 counts of allegedly providing unlawful financial assistance to individuals to buy shares in the bank.
They are due to go on trial next January.