Clerys redundancy obstruction charge dropped

Prosecutors have dropped the most serious charge brought against businesswoman Deirdre Foley over redundancies at Clerys, writes Tom Tuite.

A connected charge brought against Natrium Ltd, which bought the famous department store on Dublin’s O’Connell St in 2015, was also withdrawn yesterday. Previous owners OCS Operations petitioned the High Court for liquidation on June 12, 2015.

This was followed by collective redundancies in which 460 people lost jobs; 130 of them were directly employed by Clerys, the court has heard.

Ms Foley was due to go on trial in January on a single charge of impeding a Workplace Relations Commission inspector and three counts of breaking protection of employment laws.

However, following legal argument about non-disclosure of earlier drafts of witness statements yesterday, the charge against Ms Foley for impeding the commission on June 12, 2015, was dropped.

Dublin district court heard this obstruction offence was the only charge against her which carried a potential jail sentence.

Natrium was also charged with obstructing or impeding a commission inspector on June 27 last year at 25-28 North Wall Quay, the company’s address. Ms Foley has a 20% stake in that firm which was due to go on trial in January as a co-defendant of Ms Foley and others.

During pre-trial legal argument, Natrium solicitor James McGuill applied for an order to allow a computer expert for the defence examine computer files of the prosecution witness statements.

He said he had applied in accordance with DPP guidelines for copies of earlier drafts of statements made by a commission inspector.

He said he had been told the computer documents had been revised 168 times but it was not possible to access the earlier drafts.

The prosecution had engaged in a process of deleting each draft and that, Mr McGuill argued, “amounted to a destruction of evidence”. A description of the documents’ properties could also say when they had been printed but the hard-copies were not available.

He said he was entitled to these versions which also included any possible emailed versions of the documents or drafts which may still be on computer servers. He also submitted that the earlier drafts of the statements were essential for cross-examination.

The application was supported by Ronan Kennedy, for Ms Foley who has an address at Hollybank Avenue, Upper Ranelagh, Dublin 6.

Judge Brennan indicated he would grant the order to allow Natrium’s computer expert to examine the computer files.

The case against OCS, Mr Redmond and Ms Foley was adjourned until February 6.

All the defendants have indicated that they would be contesting the charges.

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