Donegal waste collector avoids jail after court hears of apology
Jim Ferry offers cash seized by CAB to remediate site but says he will file for bankruptcy
Waste collector Jim Ferry claimed the illegal dumping by him at Rossbracken, Co Donegal, was “a desperate act” when he discovered a problem with the weighing of bins collected.
He has offered to give the council two amounts of cash – €80,000 and €78,000 – seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau from the home of his partner and from his company office at Rossbracken near Letterkenny, site of the illegal dumping, if CAB will release the money.
The council has estimated that the cost of cleaning up the mess he has made at a Special Area of Conservation by Lough Swilly on the Wild Atlantic Way is between €4.5 million and €5.8 million.
In an affidavit, Mr Ferry told the High Court on Tuesday that he had sold his waste business to Wers Waste of Clare for €406,000, plus Vat. Of this, €256,000 had been paid to “third parties” for “outstanding costs associated with land fill”.
Mr Ferry was in court having earlier been on the run and outside the jurisdiction since being found in contempt of the High Court last August and a warrant issued for his arrest. His lawyer said he was now broke, unemployed and would shortly file for bankruptcy.
In May, Mr Ferry emerged from hiding in Northern Ireland and presented himself to the High Court. On that occasion, his barrister, Francis Treanor BL, appealed to Mr Justice Max Barrett for “one last chance” to comply with several High Court orders.
These demanded that he provide the court with a statement of his financial affairs and that he assist Donegal County Council clean up the 16-acre Rossbracken site where the council maintained between 28,000 and 36,000 tons of waste had been dumped illegally, some above ground but much of it buried.
Long criminal record
Mr Ferry has a long criminal record linked to illegal dumping in Donegal. In his five-page affidavit to the High Court yesterday, he accepted that “my activities . . . have been a cause of significant concern to [Donegal County Council] for many years”.
He said he now accepted that his “best endeavours” to deal with matters had “fallen short”, that he had not been forthcoming and “nor did I fully co-operate” with the council.
“I now wish to apologise unreservedly . . . for embarking on this course of action,” said his affidavit.
The affidavit was accompanied by what Richard Lyons SC, for Donegal County Council, described as a large volume of supporting exhibits. These included company cash flow statements, accounts and bank statements covering the years 2014 to 2018.
The council has retained a forensic accountant, Gerard Murray, to test the information in the affidavit and accompanying exhibits, the court heard.
Mr Lyons told the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, presiding in the absence of Mr Justice Barrett, that despite all the orders against him, Donegal County Council has not received one penny from Mr Ferry but has had to foot the bill for an initial clean up of the Rossbracken site.
In his affidavit, Mr Ferry claimed the illegal dumping by him at Rossbracken was “a desperate act” when he allegedly discovered he had been collecting “overweight bins”.
“It was the practice of individual customers to put as much waste as possible into the bins to be collected by my company,” he said.
He claimed that he “did not know what quantities or volume of waste was coming into the Rossbracken site over these years which caused me to conceal some of that waste on the site [and]it was done foolishly and clearly illegally” so that he could remain competitive.
In a responding letter from the council to Mr Ferry’s solicitor, which Mr Lyons read to the court, this explanation was derided.
“The idea that your client [Mr Ferry] somehow suddenly became aware of a serious problem with overweight bins and did what he did by burying vast quantities of waste illegally in the ground as ‘a desperate act’ to save the business, is quite frankly ludicrous,” said the letter.
Some 30,000 tons of waste had been dumped illegally at the site which, based on collection fees, equated to €3.36 million, said Mr Lyons.
“What happened to the money?” he asked.
The court heard the site was mortgaged for €2.5 million. Mr Lyons said the council wanted the mortgage discharged and the site given to it after remediation. Mr Lyons said that in his affidavit, Mr Ferry said: “I accept that my best endeavours to deal with the matter have fallen short. . . I wish now to apologise unreservedly to the plaintiff”.
Mr Treanor said Mr Ferry had not pocketed money collected from householders that could be equated to the waste dumped at Rossbracken.
“It wasn’t that Mr Ferry was receiving hundreds of thousands,” said Mr Treanor. “He was receiving a modest income. He doesn’t have any secret bank accounts or secret stash of money.”
Mr Ferry was now unemployed, his business was gone and he was about to go bankrupt. He had come to the court and “has put his hands up to such an extent that he can’t put them up any higher”.
Mr Justice Kelly spared Mr Ferry immediate incarceration in jail but only on the basis that he continued to co-operate with the council.
“I am not by any means saying that Mr Ferry is out of the woods or anything like it,” Mr Kelly said.
He adjourned the case until July 31st.