By Ann O'Loughlin
A former Fine Gael town councillor who received the longest prison sentence for corruption ever handed down by the Irish courts has urged the Supreme Court to quash his conviction.
Fred Forsey Jnr (aged 46), of Coolagh Road, Abbeyside, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, was convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act in connection with receiving €60,000, €10,000 and €10,000 in 2006 in three corrupt payments from a property developer, who had an interest in a planning permission for the development of land at Ballygagin, Co Waterford.
He was also accused of behaving corruptly in trying to persuade officials and councillors in Waterford County Council to grant permission for the development, and when that was refused, attempting to alter the zoning of the land in the Waterford Co Development Plan. It was further alleged he tried to get Dungarvan UDC, which he was formerly an elected member of, to bring the lands into its control.
He denied the charges and claimed the monies were loans.
In 2012 a jury at Waterford Circuit Criminal Court found him guilty and he was sentenced to six years imprisonment with the final two suspended.
In July 2016 the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal against his conviction but he later got permission to bring a further appeal to the Supreme Court.
In his appeal before a five-judge Supreme Court, Forsey, represented by Remy Farrell and Hugh McDowell BL, disputes the legality of a presumption of corruption against a holder of public office contained in Section 4 of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The prosecution relied on the presumption in arguing the section imposed an obligation on Mr Forsey to disprove corruption.
He has also raised arguments relating to the scope of an individual's office or position in the context of a charge of corruption.
Mr Farrell said the conviction should be quashed. He said Forsey has served his sentence, the longest in the history of the state for corruption, and any issue of a retrial, should the conviction be quashed, would be a matter for the DPP.
The DPP, represented by Denis Vaughan Buckley SC and Noel Whelan BL, opposed the appeal and argued the conviction should remain undisturbed.
Mr Vaughan Buckley said the prosecution case was overwhelming and the evidence was such to enable the jury to comfortably come to the unanimous view beyond reasonable doubt Forsey had committed the offences.
Having heard arguments from the sides today, the court reserved judgment.