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Long Arm Reach for Corruption Prosecution
The High Court has recently held in Kennedy v DPP(3) that public officials can be prosecuted for corruption notwithstanding a delay of up to 19 years in bringing such proceedings. The case involved the alleged payment of money by Mr Kennedy to certain elected officials as an inducement for them to vote in favour of the rezoning of certain lands.
Given that 19 years have passed since the alleged corruption, Mr Kennedy argued that his ability to defend the charges had been prejudiced by inexcusable delay. The High Court found the delay to be inordinate, and yet, excusable in circumstances where the authorities had encountered difficulty in locating Mr Kennedy and where key witnesses had not been available to give evidence. Further, it was held that, even if the delay were inexcusable, given that the State had invested significant resources, time and money in tribunals of enquiry to investigate allegations of corruption, there was an overwhelming public interest in allowing the prosecution to proceed.
The decision is notable in its finding that the public interest in having corruption charges prosecuted can outweigh an otherwise inexcusable delay in bringing a prosecution. The High Court decision (which is under appeal) is in stark contrast to other jurisdictions. For example, the general rule in the US is that offences under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act must be initiated within 5 years of the offence.
3.  IEHC 311