Thomas Byrne trial hears closing arguments from prosecution

Friday 08 November 2013 22.25
Thomas Byrne denies the charges put before him
Thomas Byrne denies the charges put before him

The jury in the trial of former solicitor Thomas Byrne has heard his explanation for the transfer of client property into his name was preposterous, bizarre and absurd.

Mr Byrne denies 50 charges of theft, fraud and forgery involving almost €52 million, six banks and 12 properties.

Judge Pat McCartan will resume his charge to the jury on Monday.

In closing arguments for the prosecution, senior counsel Remy Farrell said there was not a single scrap of paper to prove his claims that he had the consent of clients to buy or use their homes.

He said Mr Byrne's defence appeared to be that "the dog ate his homework, not once not twice but about ten times".

Mr Farrell said every other single piece of paper that was available flatly and completely contradicted his story.

He said the jury members would have to ask themselves if Mr Byrne was the unluckiest man in Ireland, if more than 11 people would line up independently to give false evidence against him. 

They would also have to determine if it was credible that they would come to court and tell those untruths to get a relatively small thing back: help from the Law Society to get their property returned.

In relation to alleged frauds on the banks, Mr Farrell said Mr Byrne was a gambler who would not throw his hand in even at the end.

If he was sitting at a gambling table, the stack of chips in the pot would just get higher and higher. As he got deeper and deeper in debt, his answer was to borrow more.

Mr Farrell said it was not open to Mr Byrne to use the defence of duress, despite his claims of duress in the witness box.

Even if the jury believed he was under pressure from John Kelly and that the banks were complicit in lending, these were factors the jury could not consider.

He was involved in a sophisticated pattern of fraud over a long period of time. 

The jury should have very little difficulty in finding him guilty, Mr Farrell said.

Defence counsel Damien Colgan told the jury there were cracks appearing in the prosecution's case. If they had any doubt they must give Mr Byrne the benefit of it.

They may not have liked him, they may think he was shifty in the witness box, but he had stood his ground, despite the prosecution trying to back him into a corner.

While the defence of duress could not be used in a legal sense, perhaps it could be in a human sense.

There may have been no immediate threat, but there was an ongoing threat over a number of years.

The €10,000 Mr Byrne was given when required to leave Ireland did come from a freezer in the back of a Centra shop.

It may have been like a scene from The Sopranos or Love/Hate, but that is what happened, Mr Colgan said.

With regard to forged documents, he said there was no evidence that Mr Byrne had forged documents.

The simplest thing would have been for gardaí to get a handwriting expert, but this had not been done.

If the jury members could not satisfy themselves that the document was forged then they had a real problem. He said if there was a problem or a doubt then Mr Byrne had to be given the benefit of that doubt.

If what Mr Byrne said was true, or might reasonably be true, then there is a doubt.

Mr Colgan said witnesses may have had secrets they did not want their families to know and had agreed with Mr Byrne there should be no paper trail.

If there was a paper trail, they may not have got their properties back from the Law Society.

Mr Colgan said the prosecution was asking the jury to conveniently forget about the hype surrounding the property market at the time of the alleged offences.

Banks were throwing money at people, desperate to get their business and Mr Byrne got caught up in that, he said.

The banks were getting away with everything, Mr Colgan said.