Clerys closure: Court dismisses challenge relating to charges against former owners
Posted on 11th July 2019 at 22:14
Minister had challenged District Court decision to strike out charges
The High Court has dismissed a Ministerial challenge over a District Court judge’s decision striking out charges linked to redundancies at Clerys department store in Dublin.
The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection had challenged District Court Judge John Brennan’s decision in March 2018 to strike out charges against businesswoman Deidre Foley, co-defendant Mark Redmond, of Belfry Dale, Saggart, Co Dublin, and the previous owners of Clerys, OCS Operations.
The defendants were charged with offences contrary to provisions of the 1977-2014 Protection of Employment Act arising out of the closure of Clery’s in June 2015 when 460 people lost their jobs.
Lawyers for Ms Foley, Mr Redmond and the company had successfully applied to have the charges struck out on grounds they could not get a fair trial without being provided with certain material from the Inspectors appointed by the Labour Court to look into the redundancies at the Store.
Judge Brennan’s decision was made on grounds including the prosecution had failed to comply with an order for disclosure of certain computer records and statements by the Minister to the defendants.
Judge Brennan also said any further adjournment of the case against the defendants would encroach on their rights to fair procedures and a speedy trial.
In her High Court judicial review proceedings against Ms Foley, Mr Redmond and OCS Operations Ltd, the Minister sought various declarations including the District Judge failed to strike a balance between the public interest in the prosecution of the offences and any risk of an unfair trial.
The Minister also sought declarations the striking out order was wholly disproportionate and unjust having regard to all the circumstances of the case.
It was also argued the Minister had fully discharged the duty to make disclosure to the respondents.
In his judgment on Thursday rejecting the Minister’s challenge, Mr Justice Charles Meenan said the Minister had “fallen well short of establishing any grounds upon which the High Court could quash Judge Brennan’s decision. “
Judge Brennan’s decision was made “within jurisdiction, followed a full hearing and was the subject of a ruling which was clear, considered and correctly applied the appropriate legal principles.”
The case centred on whether Judge Brennan’s decision was disproportionate and whether he should have left the matter of disclosure over to the judge hearing the trial of the substantive hearing, Mr Justice Meenan said.
Judge Brennan, he said, was fully aware of the background to the charges and circumstances under which he directed disclosure and was correct to deal with the matter of disclosure at the stage he did when delivering his ruling on March 20th 2018.
Before arriving at his decision, Judge Brennan carried out a balancing exercise and had found his order for disclosure of December 2017 had not been complied with, he said. That balancing exercise was “very detailed” and took into account the various factors that concerned the respective parties.
Judge Brennan had also taken into account the case before him was not a straightforward prosecution and there were significant issues at play which were being determined by other courts in relation to the matter.
Judge Brennan had taken factors into account including a considerable delay in applying for summonses in the case and that the defendants were effectively “in the dark” for some time as to what the case against them was.
In all the circumstances, Mr Justice Meenan said he was satisfied to dismiss the Minister’s action.
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