Former Independent News and Media (INM) executives Gavin O'Reilly and Karl Brophy have succeeded in adding former INM chairman Leslie Buckley as a defendant in their case against the publisher over an alleged data hack.
Mr Justice Paul Coffey made the order on Thursday following an application by lawyers for Mr Brophy and Mr O'Reilly. They alleged Mr Buckley was "heavily involved in the wrongful acts" committed against them.
The case revolves around an alleged operation in INM in 2014 to secretly download the newspaper publisher’s back-up IT tapes to search its email system for information about several prominent individuals, including the two men.
The alleged operation is the subject of an investigation by the State's corporate watchdog, the ODCE, which alleges it was directed by Mr Buckley when he was chairman of INM and a board nominee of then major shareholder Denis O'Brien. The alleged data leak is also being investigated by the Data Protection Commission.
After the ODCE brought its suspicions to the High Court in 2018, Mr Brophy and Mr O'Reilly filed a case against INM over the alleged data leak. In court papers, they refer to a previous "long-running power struggle" at INM between Mr O'Reilly's family and Mr O'Brien.
Last year, Mr Brophy and Mr O’Reilly received permission from the court to use ODCE affidavits, previously filed as part of the watchdog’s application for inspectors, in their case against INM. They argue that these affidavits show that the alleged data leak was carried out “under the instruction” of Mr Buckley.
They say their case “has always been that Mr Buckley participated in the wrongs committed against” them. In October, the two men’s lawyers wrote to INM to ask if it intended to plead that “Mr Buckley was a concurrent wrongdoer” in the case.
INM, which is separately suing Mr Buckley over related events, replied last month that it was “not possible” to identify concurrent wrongdoers.
Mr Brophy and Mr O’Reilly then sought permission from the High Court to enjoin Mr Buckley as a defendant, arguing that the six-year statute of limitations might kick in this summer, as the alleged data hack started in August 2014.
INM consented to the order that was granted by the High Court on Thursday.