Court defers application for document access in INM case

Seven of those claiming data compromised are seeking permission to use the material

The High Court has deferred consideration of an application for access to documents by a number of people who claim their personal data was compromised in a data leak at Independent News & Media (INM).

The application was brought on behalf of seven people – journalist Sam Smyth, former INM executive Andrew Donagher, PR executives Mark Kenny, Jonathan Neilan, Harriet Mansergh and Jenny Kilroy and media solicitor Simon McAleese.

They are seeking permission from the court to use, in any possible future litigation against INM and its former chairman Leslie Buckley, certain material about the data leak gathered by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) arising out of protected disclosures made by former INM chief executive Robert Pitt and former INM chief financial officer Ryan Preston. This ultimately resulted in the appointment of High Court inspectors to the company.

On Wednesday, Mr Justice Garrett Simons deferred the application by Hugh McDowell, for the seven, after Sean Guerin SC, for Mr Buckley, said he had not received any notice of it.

Caren Geoghegan, for INM, said her client was not opposing the application on the understanding the use of the material would be confined to any intended litigation against INM and Mr Buckley.

The court heard two former INM executives, Gavin O'Reilly and Karl Brophy, had already got permission for access to the material for use in future litigation.

The matter will be dealt with by the judge later this month after the case returns for mention before him for directions as to how it should proceed. Counsel for Mr Buckley and the inspectors said they were seeking to have the matter determined as soon as possible.

The judge said, if he can be relieved of his other commitments for next week, he would hear the matter but he would have to make enquiries in relation to that.

Mr Buckley, who seeks the removal or recusal of the court-appointed inspectors on grounds of alleged objective bias, sought further directions from the court on Wednesday in relation to documents for that case.

Draft directions

The judge made an order, following an application from Mr Guerin for Mr Buckley, concerning draft directions in relation to documents, subject to an amendment in relation to old notice parties and new notice parties in the case. He said he would not vacate the scheduled July hearing date for the case but put it in for mention on June 24th.

The judge also dealt with applications to be joined as notice parties in the case from former INM majority shareholder Denis O’Brien, represented by Michael Cush SC, and from several corporate clients in the cybersecurity area called the “data interrogation witnesses”, represented by Paul McGarry SC.

They argued they should be joined, and thereby receive papers in the case, as they are directly affected by the investigation.

Tom Mallon, for Mr Pitt, said he was not strictly speaking seeking to be joined as a notice party but wanted to be supplied with the documents. A similar arrangement has applied to several INM executives, the court heard.

The judge was satisfied to make an order allowing the joining of Mr O’Brien and the cybersecurity clients as notice parties.

In relation to Mr O’Brien, he said the latter’s name “looms large in relation to the investigation” and while the precise nature of his participation in the proceedings will have to be further clarified, he will be entitled to documents as a notice party.

The judge also said he was prepared to accede to Mr Pitt’s application in relation to papers subject to the caveat he is not a notice party.