INM fail in bid to block ODCE application for inspectors to be appointed to media group

By Ann O'Loughlin

A High Court judge has dismissed an application by Independent News & Media plc aimed at quashing the corporate watchdog's decision to seek inspectors to investigate an alleged data breach and other issues at the media group.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan’s decision means the ODCE application will now be heard at a later date before the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly. He will decide whether or not inspectors should be appointed.

Dismissing the judicial review today, Mr Justice Noonan said INM’s fundamental proposition that it had a right to be consulted before legal proceedings are instituted by a public body is “novel and unprecedented” and, as a matter of law, “cannot be sustained”.

If INM has an answer to the concerns raised by the ODCE, that may mean, when the application is actually heard, inspectors will not be appointed, he said.

The court could not take cognisance, at this stage, of any damage INM claimed to have suffered as a result of the ODCE decision to seek inspectors, he also said.

There was an important public interest in the functions performed by the ODCE, he said.

The ODCE application was initiated following its year long investigation into matters at INM.

ODCE Ian Drennan said he considered it was necessary for the court to appoint inspectors to investigate various matters about which he had concerns.

Those issues arose from protected disclosures by former INM CEO Robert Pitt and INM Chief Financial Officer Ryan Preston on dates in 2016 and 2017.

The issues included an alleged data breach at INM over some montHs from October 2014; a proposed purchase by INM of Newstalk Radio from Communicorp, a company of INM's major shareholder, Denis O'Brien; and a proposed fee payment by INM to Island Capital, a company also linked to Mr O'Brien. Neither the purchase nor payment proceeded.

Mr Drennan said the range of “potentially unlawful conduct” that may have taken place within INM is “extensive” and an investigation by inspectors is necessary for reasons including to establish whether journalists emails or other data was accessed over a period from October 2014, by whom, for what purpose and whether Mr O’Brien benefitted from that.

In response to the bringing of the ODCE application last March, INM sought judicial review which, had it succeeded, would have prevented the application being heard. The judicial review was heard over two days last month and Mr Justice Noonan reserved judgement on May 10th.

More on this topic

Cameras can be used in R Kelly case hearings, judge rules

High Court refuses man's appeal not to be made ward of court

US lab worker defends sending smear test slide to lab not in contract

Court charges two girls with assault on girl, 16, in 'very serious incident' in field before teen disco

More in this Section

British Airways reveals new business class design

Developing a gin-and-tonic without alcohol

Weighing the best options for a €100,000 windfall

Markets calm as no deal was never on


Lifestyle

Video: This is how you can master Marie Kondo’s ‘life-changing’ method of tidying up

Cookbook review: The Flexible Pescatarian by Jo Pratt

How to make your garden a plastic-free zone

4 things you need to know about matcha, the form of green tea that’s getting a lot of buzz

More From The Irish Examiner