Saturday 24 February 2018

Judge to rule on Leslie Buckley's privilege assertion

Stock photo
Stock photo

Eimear Cotter

A judge is set to rule on whether documents sought by the State's corporate watchdog from Leslie Buckley, who is stepping down as chairman of Independent News & Media (INM), are subject to legal privilege.

The documents, which mostly relate to communications between Mr Buckley and a cyber security specialist, are being sought as part of an investigation by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) of a whistleblower complaint.

The ODCE is conducting an inquiry into an aborted deal between INM and Newstalk, the radio station owned by INM's largest shareholder Denis O'Brien. The inquiry has more recently widened to include the handling of a "potential personal data breach" at the media company.

The documents, 11 in total, which the ODCE had been given under seal, were handed to the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, yesterday.

Brian Murray SC, for the ODCE, and Sean Guerin SC, for Mr Buckley, agreed the court should review the documents and decide if they were privileged.

Mr Buckley delivered a fresh affidavit on January 9 last, where the basis of this claim of privilege was explained. The legal privilege being claimed was professional and litigation privilege, the court heard.

Mr Justice Kelly did not say when he will deliver his ruling.

In court documents, Mr Buckley said an order served on him by the ODCE required him to review a large number of documents dating back two years. Following that, 275 documents were provided to the ODCE and privilege was claimed over 11 of them.

Mr Buckley said, in an affidavit, the cost reduction exercise with which he said the documents were connected necessitated engagement of "external technical expertise", first by IT expert Derek Mizak who had recommended hiring a specialist IT company.

Some of the documents were prepared in advance of a statement INM was issuing, the court had heard.

INM previously said it was not a party to the case involving Mr Buckley, who is represented by his own lawyers.

It was announced last Friday that Mr Buckley will resign from INM's board. He will leave following a meeting of shareholders on March 1.

Irish Independent

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