Five years have passed since original case
A judge will rule on a multi-millionaire’s drink-driving conviction appeal whether or not he has legal representation given five years have passed since the original case.
Christopher Walsh is seeking to have his road ban overturned. It was handed down in 2017 after he crashed his Ferrari and tried to claim the so-called hip flask defence.
The south Belfast businessman famously hid in a hedge after smashing into two cars in Holywood, Co Down, in 2015.
In January 2020, he was granted leave to appeal the conviction after his lawyers said new evidence had come to light.
Defendants normally have 28 days to lodge an intention to appeal from the date of conviction.
The six-hour-long hearing eventually went ahead at Antrim County Court in April, with Judge Richard Greene QC due to decide whether or not to overturn the conviction.
But the case was brought up again at Belfast County Court last week where Walsh’s barrister asked the same judge if he could remove himself from the case.
The lawyer said Walsh’s other counsel had been dismissed by Walsh and both of them could potentially be called as witnesses in further hearings of the case and therefore, he was seeking to step away from the matter.
Walsh’s solicitor is also expected to remove themselves from the case due to the same concerns.
The lawyer told Judge Greene that he had consulted the barristers professional conduct body which assured him it was the right and proper course of action to take. A lawyer for the Crown told the court that given the time the case had already taken up Walsh should “get on with it”.
He said given the level of representation Walsh had during the appeal process, there was “very little left to consider” in the case.
Walsh (58), of Mount Pleasant in south Belfast, was not present for Thursday’s hearing due to an illness which was not disclosed in court.
Judge Greene said he intended to set a “very swift timetable” to decide on the case and ordered Walsh to attend court next week or provide a reason why he cannot.
Adjourning the case, Judge Greene said: “I want to bring this matter to a conclusion...whether he has representation or not.”
Property developer Walsh was given a five-year ban at Ards Magistrates Court in 2017 after crashing his £150k sports car on the Belfast Road in Holywood.
The full appeal hearing in April heard defence claims that a police officer tried to coach a witness in the original case.
It was also told photographs of the scene were not passed by police to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) despite having already appeared in the press.
During the hearing Walsh admitted having a single bottle of beer before starting to drive to his partner’s house when the crash happened.
He said he left the scene of the crash after a man started photographing him and he (Walsh) had grabbed the bottle of vodka from the car and drank it in “three to four gulps” to calm his nerves.
A Crown barrister put it to Walsh that his memory of the day had “miraculously” improved since the magistrates court case in 2017 during which he said he could remember nothing between 4pm that day and the afternoon of the following day.
Walsh said he was honest during that hearing but he had a neurological report to support the recovery of his memory since and had gone to “considerable means” to clear his name.