Seán Fitzpatrick, former CEO and Chairman of Anglo-Irish Bank has applied to have his defence costs paid by the State after his recent acquittal in the Circuit Criminal Court, and guess what? He’s right.
I hope Seánie Fitz gets his costs, because in doing so, he will have exposed the iniquity of a criminal justice system that penalises innocent people. As anyone who reads this site regularly knows, I’m no flag-bearer for the people who ran the worst bank in history, but in this case, I think Fitzpatrick has a valid point.
If you’re arrested and charged with an offence, no matter how frivolous or malicious that charge might be (assuming, of course that an Garda Síochána would ever do anything so improper), you’ll be stuck with your legal costs even if you’re acquitted. Unless, that is, you happen to be a useless lowlife with 87 previous convictions who never worked a day in your life. In those circumstances, the State will be happy to provide you with a defence team free of charge, even if you’re subsequently convicted for the 88th time.
But if you’re an ordinary Joe who happens to fall foul of the system, no matter how innocent you are, you might find yourself faced with ruinous legal costs. In Ireland, it’s not necessary to be guilty to be punished. All you have to do is be charged and you will have a gigantic de facto fine imposed on you for the privilege of demonstrating your innocence. You will have to pay because you’re one of the people who work to earn a little money.
This is an everyday reality faced by people who are acquitted in court. Despite being innocent, they have to find, somehow, the tens of thousands of euro it took to convince a court that the State had failed to prove its case.
That’s why I think Seanie Fitz should get his costs. Not because I have any sympathy for him, but because he was acquitted and is therefore innocent.
And because I’d like to have my costs covered too, if the State should decide to charge me with a crime I didn’t commit.
Who’d have thought that Sean Fitzpatrick, of all people, would become the champion of the Squeezed Middle?