Sunday 22 October 2017

Judge refuses to strike out prosecution against businesswoman facing trial over Clery's redundancies

Deirdre Foley Photo: Tony Gavin
Deirdre Foley Photo: Tony Gavin

Tom Tuite

A JUDGE has refused to throw out a criminal prosecution against businesswoman Deirdre Foley who is facing trial over collective redundancies at Clerys department store.

Defence lawyers applied for the case to be struck out today at Dublin District Court on the grounds that there had not been full compliance with an order made in July for disclosure of evidence.

Judge John Brennan refused, however, he warned that he would be “strongly minded” to accede the defence application if all statements were not handed over by the prosecution in four weeks. He said his ruling was that disclosure, “full and complete” must be made.

The case resumes next month when it will be listed for mention, however, the trial is scheduled to get under-way in January.

Ms Foley faces a single charge of impeding a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) inspector and three counts of breaking protection of employment laws.

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 court heard today that in mid-August, the prosecution furnished defence lawyers with about 75,000 documents obtained from a laptop computer seized during the investigation.

However, Remy Farrell SC for Ms Foley said the defence has not received any of the statements taken and was “in the dark as to the nature of the prosecution”. He said there were obstruction charges and the defence “simply have no idea what they are about”. He said the prosecution did not seem to want to tell anyone the nature of the case.

Solicitor James MacGuill, for Natrium Ltd, said the disclosure order was made on July 3 last and was supposed to be complied with in six weeks, by August 14 last.

On the following day 77,000 documents were furnished, he said. However, he described the material as “impenetrable” and it did not have any context as no statements of evidence were provided.

Prosecution counsel Breffni Gordon said the documents will made available on a web platform to which the defence will have access as well as an independent barrister who can give a decision as to whether or not certain documents are privileged.

The process of setting it up would in two or three weeks time, he said. He said it was also intended to provide a book of evidence and there was no intention for any party to be put on trial without having full and complete disclosure so defendants have opportunities to understand the case against them.

Ms Foley, Mr Redmond and Mr Cooney had been excused from attending court today. 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.

Earlier the district court was 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.

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 business which has an 80 per cent 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, 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 to initiate consultations with representatives of employees, 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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