Minister ‘lashed out’ summonses over Clerys redundancies, judge told
Department store employed 460 staff at time of closure
Deirdre Foley (pictured), Mark Redmond and OCS Operations were summonsed under employment legislation over redundancies at the store. Photograph: Collins Courts
The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection simply “lashed out” summonses when bringing prosecutions over redundancies at the former Clerys department store in Dublin, the High Court has been told.
There was failure to apply the necessary criteria for bringing what was a criminal prosecution against parties who had been involved in the ownership of the now closed store, Remy Farrell SC said.
He was making arguments on behalf of businesswoman Deirdre Foley and her co-defendant Mark Redmond who, along with OCS Operations, the previous owners of Clerys, were summonsed under employment legislation over redundancies at the store which had employed 460.
OCS, now in liquidation, employed 134 of the workers.
The charges related to allegedly failing to initiate consultations with representatives of employees, failing to supply them with all relevant information relating to the redundancies and not notifying the Minister in writing of this.
In March 2018, the District Court struck out the case after lawyers for the three defendants argued they could not get a fair trial without being provided with certain material from inspectors appointed by the Labour Court to look into the redundancies at the store.
District Judge John Brennan struck out the case on grounds the prosecution had failed to comply with an order for disclosure of documentation. The case against them was brought under the 1977-2014 Protection of Employment Act. Judge Brennan also ruled any further adjournment would encroach on the defendants’ rights to fair procedures and an expeditious trial.
The Minister brought High Court judicial review proceedings seeking to have Judge Brennan’s decision quashed. The defendants oppose that application.
Padraig Dwyer SC, for the Minister, argued the District Judge had failed to strike a balance between the public interest in the prosecution of the offences and any risk of an unfair trial. There had been no breach of fair procedures because there had been “constant engagement” with the defendants before the hearing. It was “unfair, disproportionate and unreasonable” for the District Judge to strike out this case, he said.
Mr Farrell SC, for Ms Foley and Mr Redmond, said this prosecution did not meet the stringent criteria for bringing criminal cases against people. What the Minister did in this case was to “simply lash out the summons and then do the investigation”, he said.
Brendan Grehan SC, for the OCS liquidators, said the Minister applied for the summonses at the very end of the 12-month time limit in which it is permitted to do so. The case came before the District Court on numerous occasions, he said. Despite the District Judge agreeing to extensions of time to comply with disclosure orders on the basis it was a complex case, they were still not complied with, he said.
The case is expected to conclude on Friday before Mr Justice Charles Meenan who is expected to reserve judgment.