Monday 23 June 2014 16.42
Seán FitzPatrick is not entitled to be awarded costs despite his acquittal, the court ruled
The Dublin Circuit Criminal Court has ruled that the State should not have to pay the legal costs for former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán FitzPatrick following his acquittal on charges of giving illegal loans.
Judge Martin Nolan found there was no fault to be found in how the State conducted the case and therefore Mr FitzPatrick is not entitled to be awarded costs despite his acquittal.
Judge Nolan said the DPP had conducted the case in a “principled, fair and reasonable manner” and he could not lay any fault in the way the DPP dealt with the prosecution or conducted the trial.
He said it was his view that before he could levy costs against any entity some fault must be shown in relation to the discharge of their function and he could not see that in this case.
There was no unreasonableness or unfairness and therefore Mr FitzPatrick’s application for costs must fail, even though to a layman that may seem unfair that a man acquitted should be responsible for his costs.
Mr FitzPatrick was acquitted in April of giving illegal loans to 16 people to buy shares in the bank after a trial lasting more than ten weeks.
At a previous hearing Mr FitzPatrick’s lawyers asked the court to award him his costs, asking where would the justice be if he was to leave court with his pockets bulging with an enormous legal bill.
They said Mr FitzPatrick had cooperated with gardaí and had been vindicated by the jury. Lawyers also said the prosecution case against him had been “thin”.
The prosecution had opposed the application and rejected claims that the case against the former Anglo chairman had been thin.
They said it was questionable that Mr FitzPatrick himself was even liable for any costs as an undischarged bankrupt.
Judge Nolan said the starting point in deciding on costs had to be Mr FitzPatrick’s acquittal but, unlike ordinary civil cases, there was no automatic right to costs in relation to a successful outcome for an accused person.
The judge said that in considering the application for costs case law directed that he had to examine four issues.
He had to consider if the prosecution was entitled to take the case and he believed it was.
He had to consider whether or not the prosecution had conducted itself unfairly or improperly and he did not believe it had.
He also had to consider the outcome of the case, which he said was obvious.
He also had to consider how the defendant had met the proceedings and he believed Mr FitzPatrick had met the case and had conducted himself properly.
He said, however, that the DPP was a public official and its functions and office were set up by statute so substantially the question was how did the DPP conduct herself and was she right to bring the prosecution and was it conducted in an appropriate way.
On the evidence before him, he found the DPP was right to bring the case and had conducted the prosecution and the case in a principled, fair and reasonable manner and he could not lay any fault.