Former DPP warns against early banking inquiry ahead of potential criminal trials

Monday 01 July 2013 11.13
Former DPP James Hamilton has warned that a banking inquiry could prejudice any future criminal trials
Former DPP James Hamilton has warned that a banking inquiry could prejudice any future criminal trials

Former director of public prosecutions James Hamilton has said it would be "foolish" for the Government to proceed with an Oireachtas banking inquiry before criminal trials take place.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, Mr Hamilton said evidence produced in an Oireachtas inquiry could be used by those accused of criminal offences to claim they could not get a fair trial.

"The big difficulty, of course, is that if you do have an inquiry coming closely in advance of a trial, you will very much strengthen the argument of defendants that the atmosphere is such that they cannot receive a fair trial.

"In other words, the type of application which Mr Haughey successfully made to delay his own trial from taking place many years ago now.

"If we're talking now about trials taking place next year I think it would be very foolish to embark on a major inquiry before those trials take place.

"I think it would be much more to the point if steps were taken to do everything that can be done to expedite those trials taking place and then hold the inquiry."

Responding to the revelations during the week concerning the so-called Anglo tapes, he said these also posed a challenge for any trial.

"The more material of that sort there is the easier it becomes for a defence to make an argument."

The Irish Independent published transcripts of conversations from 2008 between managers at the bank.

Mr Hamilton said it was an incorrect view that Ireland lags behind other jurisdictions when it comes to dealing quickly with complex anti-corruption cases.

These cases take a long time in most jurisdictions and Ireland is no different to these countries, he said.

He said that one of the challenges in bringing charges before a jury of ordinary citizens is that the DPP must select charges which can be understood by jurors.

He said that this "presents a real challenge to the prosecutor" but he said that any change to the jury system which would allow for the use of expert or specially trained jurors would require a constitutional referendum.

"We have to live with the system we have at the moment," he said.

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