By Ann O'Loughlin
A former waste company operator has been told by the President of the High Court he was "not out of the woods" yet over an application to jail him for contempt of court.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly told Jim Ferry's lawyer he seemed to have taken a more realistic approach to proceedings against him for illegal dumping, but it needed to continue.
Last month, Mr Justice Max Barrett gave Mr Ferry, who operated Ferry's Refuse Collection and Ferry's Refuse Recyling in Donegal, two weeks to come up with detailed information about what happened to money he made from his illegal dumping activites.
The return date for the case was today but Mr Justice Kelly said he had taken the matter after Mr Justice Barrett had fallen ill and required surgery.
The court heard previously the dumping left an "unmitigated environmental disaster" on 11 acres Mr Ferry owns at Rossbracken, Letterkenny, a Special Area of Conservation on the shore of Lough Swilly.
Donegal County Council has had to spend €720,000 so far on a partial clean up. It says it will cost millions more to complete.
The council claims he made €3.36m from collecting waste at €11 a lift from households in Donegal over the years.
Mr Ferry was given until today to have all the necessary financial information furnished to the council or the application to commit him to prison for contempt would go ahead.
Richard Lyons SC, for the council, said the information was only delivered last week and his side needed time to get a forensic accountant to look at it.
Mr Lyons said that, while Mr Ferry had now apologised, he had to be "dragged kicking and screaming before he admitted his wrongdoing".
Francis Treanor BL, for Mr Ferry, said his client was willing to continue co-operating. This included allowing some €158,000 seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) in Mr Ferry's partner's home and in his business premises to go towards the remediation costs of the site once CAB unfreezes the money.
He was also willing to co-operate in regard to signing over ownership of the land involved. However, counsel pointed out a bank has a charge in relation to a €2.5m debt over it and the land was worth very little due to its condition.
Mr Justice Kelly said the forensic accountant will require further information and Mr Ferry should co-operate properly and not just use it as a stalling tactic. He noted he was prepared to authorise that the money seized by CAB could be signed over to the council.
He also noted Mr Ferry was now in a personal insolvency process in which he will have himself declared bankrupt.
In the circumstances, he was not minded to make an order imprisoning him for contempt as he would be of more benefit to the forensic accountant if he was a free man.
However, the judge would like him to note that the continuation of his present approach will be taken into account when the matter comes before Mr Justice Barrett again at the end of this month, or before him if Judge Barrett is not back.