Saturday 23 March 2019

Former INM executives intend to take legal action over alleged data breach

Independent House, Talbot Street, Dublin
Independent House, Talbot Street, Dublin
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

THREE former Independent News & Media (INM) staff, including two former senior executives, intend to issue legal proceedings in relation to the major suspected data breach at the company, the High Court has heard.

The disclosure was made by a lawyer representing former INM chief executive Gavin O’Reilly, his secretary while at INM, Mandy Scott, and INM’s former director of corporate affairs, Karl Brophy.

All three are now involved in running a public relations firm called Red Flag and are concerned their personal data may have been accessed during an “interrogation” of IT back-up tapes in 2014.

The court has previously heard that, according to INM, the company’s former chairman Leslie Buckley ordered that the back-up tapes be given to a third party service provider. Mr Buckley has pledged to robustly defend his position.

Barrister Hugh McDowell told the court Mr O’Reilly, Mr Brophy and Ms Scott wished to use affidavits and documents gathered by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) as part of their intended legal action.

The material was gathered by the ODCE as part of its successful bid to have inspectors appointed to investigate the suspected data breach and other matters at INM.

It included a list of 19 people whose names are feared to have been searched for during an “interrogation” of the data. Mr Brophy and Ms Scott’s names appeared on the list, but Mr O’Reilly’s did not.

Mr McDowell told High Court President Peter Kelly his clients were among a group of people granted access to certain ODCE material last April on the condition they could not use it for the purposes of litigation without the consent of the court. They were now seeking the court’s consent.

He said the ODCE had no objection to his clients using the material, but INM had objected following an exchange of correspondence.

The court heard INM’s concerns were that the three former employees had failed to identify the nature of the proceedings and against whom they would be taken.

The company also feared that providing consent would infringe on data protection law.

Mr McDowell said he didn't want to go into the identity of the defendants in any legal action, but said at least one was likely to be INM.

In response to a query from Mr Justice Kelly, Mr McDowell said the High Court inspectors had not been consulted about the application.

The judge agreed to hold a hearing on the application next May and set out a timetable for the exchange of affidavits.

He also said that both the ODCE and the High Court inspectors should be served, but neither needed to send legal representation if they were consenting to the application.

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