Thursday 24 August 2017

Judge orders handover of evidence for Clerys redundancies trial

Picture: PA
Picture: PA

Tom Tuite

BUSINESSWOMAN Deirdre Foley has been granted an order for disclosure of prosecution evidence for a three-week trial on charges connected to the handling of collective redundancies at Clerys department store.

Ms Foley faces a single charge of impeding a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) inspector as well as three counts of breaking protection of employment laws following the takeover.

Her co-defendants are two executives, Mark Redmond and Brendan Cooney, the previous owners of Clerys, OCS Operations Ltd (now in liquidation), and Natrium Ltd which in 2015 bought the iconic department store on Dublin’s O’Connell Street.

The case had its third listing at Dublin District Court on Monday before Judge John Brennan.

Remi Farrell SC for Ms Foley asked for an adjournment of two weeks and said he was anxious for a date for the hearing to be set.

The judge heard it will take up to three weeks and that dates can be set aside for the trial on the next mention date in court.

On Monday Judge Brennan made an disclosure order and said the defendants had been excused from attending court. He adjourned the case until July 28 next.

The judge was told earlier that Ms Foley has an application before the Court of Appeal in a bid to overturn a High Court ruling last year dismissing her challenge to the investigation. Mr Farrell told the district court on Monday that it was regrettable that the Court of Appeal did not get to deal with the case yet but that it was not something the judge needed to get involved with.

The criminal proceedings have been brought by Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the WRC.

OCS Operations petitioned the High Court for liquidation on June 12, 2015. This was followed by the collective redundancies in which 460 people lost jobs; 130 of them were directly employed by Clerys, the court has heard.

In April last, lawyers for the defence argued that in the interest of a fair trial an order should should have been made then for disclosure of evidence. The application was resisted at the first hearing in April with the prosecution saying disclosure would be provided at a later stage.

Earlier Judge Brennan was also told that during the probe a laptop was seized at the offices of Ms Foley's firm, D2 Private Ltd but it was returned to her after a forensic image of it was taken.

None of the defendants have yet entered a plea.

OCS Operations Ltd has three charges. It operated Clerys Department Store and Warehouse, from 2012 until a liquidator was appointed in June 2015, when it ceased trading.

The alleged offences are under the Protection of Employment Act for failing to initiate consultations with representatives of employees affected by the collective redundancies in OCS Operations Ltd, failing to supply employee representatives with all relevant information relating to the redundancies and not notifying the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in writing, on June 12, 2015 – the day of the Clerys takeover.

There is one charge against Natrium Ltd, the company that took over OCS Operations Ltd in 2015 and which is co-owned by property developer Deirdre Foley and a UK based property investment and hedge fund business which has an 80pc stake. Natrium Ltd is accused of obstructing or impeding a WRC inspector on June 27 last year at 25-28 North Wall Quay, the company’s address.

Deirdre Foley, of Hollybank Avenue, Upper Ranelagh, Dublin 6, who has a 20pc share in Natrium Ltd, faces four charges. One count alleges that it was with her consent or connivance that Natrium Ltd impeded a WRC inspector on June 12, 2015.

Her other three charges are under Protection of Employment Act for failing initiate consultations with representatives of workers, failing to supply them with all relevant information relating to the redundancies and not notifying the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in writing, on June 12, 2015.

Mark Redmond, of Belfry Dale, Citywest Road, Saggart, Co Dublin is an employee of D2 Private Ltd, a firm owned by Deirdre Foley. He faces the same charges for allegedly failing to notify the Minister or consult with workers’ representative or provide them with relevant information about the redundancies.

Brendan Cooney, a director of OCS Operations Ltd, with an address at Weirview Drive, Stillorgan, Co Dublin has the same charges plus an additional one under the Workplace Relations Act for giving false or misleading information to an inspector.

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