Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics

Prediction: His trial will collapse because he can’t get a fair one in Ireland.

Posted by Jason O on Jul 24, 2012 in Irish Politics |

If I were the defence counsel for a certain high profile business person, I would try the Haughey Defence, that my client has been so demonised in the media that a fair and impartial jury is impossible to assemble.

That’s why the government should introduce emergency legislation to move such trials to the Special Criminal Court immediately. If they don’t and the trial collapses, Enda and Alan Shatter should resign, because if I can foresee something like this, with no legal training, so can they.

It’s not like this is even a new point.


Jul 28, 2012 at 10:59 am

I would make a number of observations:

1. There has indeed been a huge amount of demonisation of the individual concerned. The media, and I include Internet social media in this, has disgraced itself in this. A number of very prominent journalists of good repute have failed to uphold standards.

2. The Government – not as egregiously as in the Haughey incident, but pretty badly all the same – has fuelled the scapegoating campaign.

3. Where’s the beef ? After over three years, the only charges are for relatively trivial offences which neither justify (in themselves) the label “fraud” promiscuously flashed by commentators nor had any significant role in causing the banking disaster.

4. My information is that further charges will be brought, but none will do any better in terms of justifying the “fraud” label, or of being causes of the disaster.

5. Don’t get me wrong: I believe that if some of the defendants are convicted, it will be justified. Also, though fraudulent behaviour, properly so-called, may never be proved, or even charged, I strongly suspect that it did occur. (Whether it occurred on a scale to have caused the disaster, I doubt).

6. Even the Special Criminal Court would find it difficult to give some of those charged a perfectly fair trial, so comprehensive has been the misunderstanding of the relevant circumstances, and so thorough the congealment of the inaccurate narrative has become.

7. All that said, I do not feel that a fair trial by jury is impossible. To the extent that it is a real possibility that a jury, like the electorate in the General Election, will be so fixated on punishing the scapegoats “because they can”, I have no doubt that the appeal process is well capable of dealing with any injustice thereby done.

8. It might be useful if the defendants could opt for a non-jury trial, as is possible in some jurisdictions. I don’t think that it is possible here. (Criminal law is not my field.)

9. To that latter extent only, there might be merit in your suggestion of legislation. However, the Special Criminal Court is, despite some improvements since then, still a monstrous affront to justice, as clearly shown by Mary Robinson in her publication thereon circa 1980. Expansion of its role would be a move in the wrong direction.

Jul 28, 2012 at 11:05 am

Of course, those responsible for ensuring that justice is not compromised e.g. the Attorney-General, have questions to answer in respect of their failures to do what they could to suppress tainting of the jury pool.

To be fair, it is not impossible that some answers may be satisfactory.



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