Sunday 18 August 2019

Former INM executives can use court files in lawsuits

Former INM chief executive Gavin O’Reilly. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Former INM chief executive Gavin O’Reilly. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Two former senior executives at Independent News & Media (INM) have been given permission to use documents filed in court by the corporate watchdog as part of lawsuits they intend bringing against the company.

Former chief executive Gavin O'Reilly and former head of corporate affairs Karl Brophy say they intend to sue over the alleged breach of their privacy and data protection rights. They also intend to allege various parties engaged in a conspiracy to damage their interests.

Yesterday the President of the High Court said both men could use Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) documents regarding the data interrogation for the purpose of bringing proceedings against INM.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly rejected a number of objections made by INM to the applications by Mr O'Reilly and Mr Brophy.

Both men have been in possession of certain ODCE documents since April of last year, but were not permitted until now to use them in litigation against the media group.

The judge said if he refused to grant their application, it would result in an injustice to Mr O'Reilly and Mr Brophy.

He said that if he did not make the order, it was inevitable that discovery applications would be made for documents both men already had.

"From a public interest point of view, that would be wasteful of scarce time and resources of the court as well as increasing the cost and delaying the litigation in question," Mr Justice Kelly said.

Both men claim their privacy and data protection rights were breached during an alleged "interrogation" of INM data back-up tapes in 2014.

The data tapes were taken to the premises of another company outside the jurisdiction and interrogated over a period of months.

Mr Justice Kelly said the operation was allegedly directed by the then chairman of INM, Leslie Buckley, and paid for by a company owned by then major shareholder Denis O'Brien. Other members of the board were allegedly not aware of the operation at the time, the judge said.

Mr Justice Kelly said the data interrogation was, according to Mr Buckley, part of a cost-­reduction exercise in respect of a contract with a firm of solicitors.

Mr Brophy's name appeared on a list of 19 people against whom the ODCE believes searches of the data were made. Mr O'Reilly's name did not appear on the list, but the name of his personal assistant Mandy Scott was included.

"It is difficult to see what the interrogation of information concerning at least some of the 19 persons had to do with a cost-reduction exercise," the judge said.

Irish Independent

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