Thursday 29 September 2016

Clerys owner wins right to challenge raid on its offices

Saurya Cherfi and Aodhan O'Faolain

Published 24/05/2016 | 02:30

Clerys. Photo: Frank McGrath
Clerys. Photo: Frank McGrath

The new owners of the Clerys building in Dublin have won the right to challenge raid on its offices in which a computer and documents were seized by inspectors from the Workplace Relations Commission.

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The WRC is investigating the collective redundancies of workers at Clerys Department Store when it closed a year ago.

Investment company D2 Private Ltd and its director and owner, Deirdre Foley, successfully sought permission in the High Court to bring proceedings after the seizures from the firm's offices in Harcourt Terrace, Dublin, last week.

Mr Justice Anthony Hunt granted D2 Private permission to challenge the inspectors' rights to enter their premises, saying he was satisfied the company had an arguable case.

The judge said during a vacation sitting the permission did not mean that D2 Private would ultimately succeed in its challenge.

The court was told that the inspectors were appointed by the Workplace Relations Commission following the Dublin store's closure in June 2015, shortly after its sale by its previous owners, the Gordon Brothers Group, to Natrium Ltd.

Eoin McCullough SC, for D2 Private, said Natrium is a joint venture made up of D2 Private Ltd and Cheyne Capital Management in the UK. Approximately 460 people who were either directly employed by Clerys or by various concession holders in the store lost their jobs when Clery's closed.

Counsel said that as part of their investigation, the two inspectors were relying on certain provisions of the 1977 Protection of Employment Act and the 2015 Workplace Relations Act, including powers to enter premises and take documents.

After entering D2 Private's offices last week, the inspectors demanded to be furnished with a laptop belonging to a company employee and certain books and records. The laptop was taken by the inspectors, the court heard.

The court heard Ms Foley and D2 Private reject the inspectors' assertions they have the power to enter their premises or to lawfully take the items sought.

Barrister Breffni Gordon, for the Minister for Jobs, who has responsibility for the Commission, said his client opposed the application. He said the investigation was being conducted to see if a criminal prosecution should be brought arising out of the workers' collective redundancy.

Judge Hunt adjourned the matter to tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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