Court to rule later on whether INM inspectors’ report can be shared

Access applications made by Central Bank, journalists and former executives

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) is the only entity with a statutory entitlement to see the interim report. Photograph: iStock

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) is the only entity with a statutory entitlement to see the interim report. Photograph: iStock

 

The president of the High Court will rule later on whether the first interim report of the inspectors investigating Independent News & Media can, at this stage, be disclosed to INM, the Central Bank, or any other party.

The inspectors were appointed by Mr Justice Peter Kelly last September and their first report was provided to him last month.

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) is the only entity with a statutory entitlement to see it. The court has discretion whether anyone else can access it.

When applications for access came before the judge on Friday, Neil Steen SC, for the ODCE, supported by inspectors Sean Gillane and Richard Fleck, objected to INM, the Central Bank, various journalists, former INM executives, or any other parties being provided with the report at this stage.

Mr Gillane said the inspectors’ particular concern was that a reference in the report to evidential matters should not be disclosed.

Among those seeking access were former INM chairman Leslie Buckley, former INM chief executive Robert Pitt, journalist Maeve Sheehan and a number of companies and individuals whom the ODCE is concerned may have been involved in the removal and interrogation of data from INM in 2014.

In reserving judgment, Mr Justice Kelly said this was the first time objections had been raised concerning an application under section 759 of the Companies Act for access to an interim report of court-appointed inspectors and he wanted to consider his ruling.

Earlier, Mr Steen argued the interim report contained no conclusions or findings and its release could adversely affect the progress and conduct of the investigation.

Procedures to be adopted

Mr Gillane said the report essentially set out the procedures to be adopted in the investigation and progress made to date but also made limited reference to evidential matters which the inspectors did not wish published. He agreed with the judge it was more than an updated progress report.

For reasons including to ensure the fair and effective conduct of the investigation, and to avoid reputational damage at this interim stage when the investigation has not concluded and no findings have been made, he agreed with the ODCE the report should not be made available to other entities now.

Lawyers for INM and the various other parties maintained they were entitled to see the report insofar as it related to them and, if the court considered necessary, in redacted form. They also said they would offer confidentiality undertakings.