High Court dismisses challenge against striking out of charges over Clery's redundancies

High Court dismisses challenge against striking out of charges over Clery's redundancies

A challenge against a decision of a District Court judge to strike out charges linked to redundancies at Clerys department store in Dublin due to delays of disclosure of evidence has been dismissed by the High Court.

The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection had brought the action aimed at quashing 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.

Judge Brennan's decision was made on grounds including that the prosecution had failed to comply with an order for disclosure of certain computer records and statements by the Minister to the defendants.

In his ruling Judge Brennan also said any further adjournment of the case against the defendants would encroach on the defendants' rights to fair procedure and an expeditious trial.

In his judgment, 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 to strike out the charges against the defendants was "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 defendants were charged with offences contrary to provisions of the 1977-2014 Protection of Employment Act arising out of the closure of Clerys in June 2015 when a total of 460 people lost their jobs.

134 of those were employees of OCS Operations Ltd, the previous owners of Clerys.

Ms Foley, Mr Redmond the company's legal teams applied to have the charges struck out on the 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.

High Court dismisses challenge against striking out of charges over Clery's redundancies

Arising out of that decision the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection brought High Court judicial review proceedings seeking to have Judge Brennan's ruling quashed.

In proceedings against Ms Foley, Mr Redmond and OCS Operations Ltd. the Minister sought various declarations including that 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 that the striking out order was wholly disproportionate and unjust having regard to the all the circumstances of the case and that the Minister had fully discharged its duty to make disclosure to the respondents.

The action was opposed.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Meenan said the case centred on whether the Judge's decision was disproportionate, and that Judge Brennan should have left the matter of disclosure over to the judge hearing the trial of the substantive hearing.

Mr Justice Meenan said Judge Brennan 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 20, 2018.

Before arriving at his decision Judge Brennan did carry out balancing exercise and had found that his order for disclosure, made in December 2017 had not been complied with.

Judge Brennan's balancing exercise Mr Justice Meenan added was "very detailed" and took into account the various factors that concerned the respective parties.

Judge Brennan had also taken into account that 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 that there had been a considerable delay in applying for summons 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 the Judge said he was satisfied to dismiss the Minister's action.

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