Data commissioner told to look again at handling of complaint

Case concerns owner of cake decoration business Decobake

A judge has told the Data Protection Commission to look again at its handling of a complaint by Paul Coyle, owner of Decobake Limited, following the winding up of the Kildare company by order of the High Court in July 2017.

Mr Coyle, the sole shareholder of Decobake, which had stores in Clane, Co Kildare and Bachelor’s Walk in the centre of Dublin, had complained to the commission that the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) had unlawfully withheld access to personal data contained in the liquidator’s reports and documentation.

The commission had upheld Mr Coyle’s complaint and its decision was appealed to the Circuit Civil Court by the ODCE.

Judge John O’Connor, in a reserved judgment, said the fairest way of dealing with the appeal, which he partly allowed on the basis that the commission had failed to comply with fairness of procedures, was to direct the commission to reconsider the manner in which it had reached its final decision.

He said the commission should issue a new draft decision based on the evidence and submissions that had been put before the court and then request the opinions of all of the parties again before issuing a new final decision based on fair procedures.

Judge O’Connor said that in its initial draft decision the commission had held the ODCE was entitled to withhold access to personal data contained in complaints and internal correspondence but in its initial final decision had held the ODCE was only entitled “to withhold the source of that data.”

Set aside

He set aside the earlier decision of the commission save for its determination that the ODCE was not entitled to withhold personal data relating to Mr Coyle on the basis such data were also publicly available. The court also ruled that the ODCE was not entitled to withhold Mr Coyle’s personal data contained in correspondence exchanged with him on the basis he might already have a copy of it.

In 2017 Dublin City Council had been granted an order by the High Court winding up Decobake, which made and sold edible cake decorations, on the basis it was unable to pay its debts and particularly a €100,000-plus commercial rates bill.

In December 2016 there had been an “aggressive” stand-off over the firm’s unpaid rates bill when the City Sheriff’s agents had turned up at the Bachelor’s Walk store attempting to execute warrants against the company’s assets.

The High Court was told in 2017 that the Sheriff’s agents had to withdraw in the face of “aggressive and physically intimidating individuals.”