Friday 25 May 2018

Humphreys defends fall in company watchdog court cases

Minister Heather Humphreys
Minister Heather Humphreys

Gordon Deegan

The number of people brought to court in cases initiated by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) more than halved last year, to four, and is a fraction of previous years.

That is according to new figures provided by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys who has disclosed that the number of court cases initiated by the ODCE was four in 2017 compared to 10 in 2016.

The ODCE is soon to be overhauled by Government. The four cases taken in 2017 compares to six in 2015; 28 in 2014, 37 in 2013 and 31 in 2012.

In a written Dáil reply to Sinn Féin's Maurice Quinlivan, the Minister said the lower number of cases recent cases reflects a number of factors.

She said that firstly, the ODCE's enforcement strategy in recent years has been to concentrate its resources on investigating more serious indications of wrongdoing - the result of which is, typically, the submission of a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for consideration. 

She explained that by definition, these investigations, when compared with District Court prosecutions, which make up the bulk of the earlier years' numbers, are substantially larger in scale; are far more complex; are substantially more labour intensive, particularly as regards Garda and professional resources and are typically involve multiple possible offences over multiple years.

On the other factor sharply reducing ODCE initiating cases, Ms Humphreys states that on legal advice following two High Court judgements in disqualification applications brought by the ODCE in 2014, the ODCE suspended that programme of activity pending an appeal by the ODCE to the Court of Appeal. 

The Minister stated that based on a decision in the Court of Appeal in one of the cases, the Office has recently recommenced its programme of seeking the disqualification of directors in appropriate cases. 

"However, many of these are now being dealt with by way of undertakings rather than court applications," she said.

Irish Independent

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