Sunday 18 February 2018

Experts denied access to Gavin O'Reilly equipment, O'Brien case hears

Denis O'Brien
Denis O'Brien

Tim Healy

Lawyers for businessman Denis O'Brien have complained that a PR firm is in breach of an order to allow "forensic imaging" of computer files to ascertain who is involved in an alleged conspiracy against him.

The High Court heard that experts for Mr O'Brien were told they "were not getting Gavin O'Reilly's equipment" as they began a pre-inspection regime.

The dispute over the level of access being given will be heard by the High Court later this week.

Mr O'Brien says an unidentified client of Red Flag Consulting is behind the alleged conspiracy to defame and damage him. He received material on a USB stick delivered anonymously to him containing a dossier of documents, many of which are allegedly defamatory.

He initially sought a civil search warrant allowing his side to go into Red Flag's offices and inspect all its computers but this was refused by the High Court as being too draconian.

He instead got an order preventing any tampering with the documents on file.

Last Friday, he got another order allowing for a forensic imaging process to be carried out jointly by IT experts for both sides in the action, whereby photographs are taken of files but the files themselves are not looked at.

The court has fixed December 8 for the hearing of injunction applications, permitting the O'Brien side to inspect the material which has been photographed.

The claims are denied by Red Flag and the other defendants, including executives Gavin O'Reilly, a former CEO of Independent News & Media, and former senior executive with INM Karl Brophy, who is Red Flag's CEO.

Mr Justice Colm Mac Eochaidh fixed next Friday for the hearing of the latest dispute, after he refused an application from Martin Hayden SC, for Mr O'Brien, for orders requiring the company to comply fully with last week's High Court order.

The application was strongly opposed by Michael Collins SC, for Red Flag, who argued they were fully in compliance.

The judge gave Mr O'Brien's lawyers permission to serve at short notice a further application to extend last week's order. He will deal with that application and Red Flag's opposition to it on Friday.

Earlier, Mr Hayden said after the court made the forensic imaging order last Friday, the experts for both sides met where a pre-inspection regime was agreed. However, after it started, their experts were told "we were not getting Gavin O'Reilly's equipment" and that there would not be any access to "cloud" based material (which is an internet-based, rather than local storage system.

Mr Hayden said access to cloud-based metadata is important in order to trace whether material has been deleted.

Mr Collins, for Red Flag, said the terms of the order granted last Friday were very clear in that they only applied to computers involved in the compilation of the dossier. His side had provided that access as well as allowing access to the computers of two people who were not defendants but had an involvement in the dossier.

Gavin O'Reilly had nothing to do with the dossier and in fact only used a Red Flag computer once, in 2014, while Mr Brophy's computer was available yesterday but the experts had not had time to get round to it, he said.

Irish Independent

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