Paul Hyde shows little emotion as Harvard-educated architect gets jail sentence

Former deputy chair of An Bord Pleanála admits two counts of failing to fully declare his interests as required under planning law

If architect Paul Hyde was shocked by the decision of Judge James McNulty to sentence him to two months in jail for failing to properly declare all his interests as a member of An Bord Pleanála he remained inscrutable, betraying little emotion as the judge imposed the penalty.

Yet it is reasonable to assume that Hyde, educated at Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork and Harvard Business School, could hardly have predicted such an ignominious end to his time as an officer of An Bord Pleanála as that which unfolded before him in the rather mundane setting of Bandon District Court.

A close friend of Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Simon Coveney, with whom he once jointly owned a racing yacht, Dark Angel, Hyde’s first foray into public service was when he was appointed by Coveney, then minister for the marine, to the Marine Institute board in 2012.

But Hyde soon changed tack from the high seas to dry land when in 2014, the then minister for the environment Phil Hogan appointed him to the board of An Bord Pleanála and in 2019, Hogan’s successor, Eoghan Murphy, appointed him deputy chair of the planning board.

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While the two breaches of Section 147 of the Planning and Development Act 2014 to which he pleaded guilty relate to 2015 and 2018, when he was an ordinary member of the board rather than deputy chair, the fall from grace culminating in his court appearance in Bandon was spectacular.

Stepping back from the position of deputy chair in May 2022, Hyde resigned in July 2022 amid controversy following the publication of articles by The Ditch website and Village magazine which alleged he had failed to fully disclose his interests as required by planning legislation.

Last October, The Irish Times reported that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had instigated a criminal prosecution against Hyde, who had always denied any wrongdoing. It followed the submission of a file by An Garda Siochána the previous month, and a visit to the offices of An Bord Pleanala by investigators in August.

The Irish Times had previously disclosed that Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien instructed An Bord Pleanála to cut off Hyde’s phone and email shortly after he had stood aside as deputy chairman of the planning body.

The move followed a conversation with David Walsh, the planning body’s chairman, in May, in which he said Hyde was still rostered to consider planning cases.

Immaculately dressed in a navy suit, crisp white shirt and navy tie, he sat in silence behind his barrister, Paula McCarthy BL waiting to learn his fate from Judge McNulty. His tanned hands lay clasped and motionless on his chest. Only his tapping feet gave any hint of slight trepidation. His was the only case set for Friday’s special court sitting in Bandon.

Judge McNulty had posed some questions regarding the “ransom strip” of land at Pope’s Hill in Cork which formed the substance of his 2015 offence, including whether he was a shareholder in a company called Planica to whom ownership of property was transferred in September 2017.

The judge rose for around 20 minutes to allow prosecution barrister, John Berry BL and defence barrister, Ms McCarthy clarify whether Hyde was in anyway linked to Planica and whether he retained any beneficial interest in the property through Planica.

Mr Berry informed the judge upon his return that inquiries had not found any evidence that Hyde was directly involved in Planica even though it emerged that a family member was a shareholder in the company and Hyde had received €20,000 for the transfer of the property to Planica.

Hyde remained emotionless as the judge nodded before he embarked on his lengthy judgment in which he stressed the need for propriety in public office which led him to believe the offence was too serious to be dealt with by way of a suspended sentence or community service order.

Never once shifting in his seat, Hyde listened intently as he learned he was to be jailed for two months and, remaining seated after the judge fixed recognisances for an appeal, he waited for his barrister, Paula McCarthy and solicitor, Colette McCarthy to approach him to discuss their strategy.

He took his time consulting with his lawyers before emerging from court, refusing to engage with reporters waiting to speak to him, ignoring their shouted questions as he got into a waiting BMW that sped off out of Bandon and took him away, at least for a while, from the eyes of the public.

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