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Criminal proceedings commence over handling of redundancies at Clerys

CourtsBy Tom Tuite
Criminal proceedings commence over handling of redundancies at Clerys

Criminal proceedings have commenced over the handling of collective redundancies at Clerys department store.

Businesswoman Deirdre Foley faces a single charge of impeding a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) inspector as well as three counts of breaking protection of employment laws.

Two other executives, as well as the previous owners OCS Operations Ltd (now in liquidation) and Natrium Ltd, which took over the iconic department store in 2015, have been served summons with connected charges.

The case had its first listing at Dublin District Court on Monday before Judge John Brennan, who following submissions from defence and prosecution lawyers, granted an adjournment until May 19 next. None of the defendants have yet entered a plea.

Breffni Gordon BL, for the prosecution, told Judge Brennan that the prosecutions have been instituted by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the WRC. 

OCS Operations petitioned the High Court for liquidation on June 12, 2015. This was followed by the collective redundancies in which 460 people lost jobs and 130 of them were directly employed by Clerys, he said.

Lawyers for the defence argued that in the interest of a fair trial, an order should be made for disclosure of evidence at this stage. Mr Gordon resisted the application and said the disclosure would be provided at a later stage.

The judge was told Ms Foley has an application before the Court of Appeal on April 28 in a bid to overturn a High Court ruling last year dismissing her challenge to the investigation. Mr Gordon said that during the investigation a laptop was seized at the offices of Ms Foley's firm, D2 Private Ltd but it was returned to her after a forensic image of it was taken.

OCS Operations Ltd faces three charges. It operated Clerys Department Store and Warehouse, from 2012 until a liquidator was appointed in June 2015, when it ceased trading.

The alleged offences are under the Protection of Employment Act for failing to initiate consultations with representatives of employees affected by the collective redundancies in OCS Operations Ltd, failing to supply employee representatives with all relevant information relating to the redundancies and not notifying the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in writing, on June 12, 2015 - the day of the Clerys takeover.

There is one charge against Natrium Ltd, the company that took over OCS Operations Ltd in 2015 and which is co-owned by property developer Deirdre Foley and a UK-based property investment and hedge fund business which has an 80 per cent stake. Natrium Ltd is accused of obstructing or impeding a WRC inspector on June 27 last year at 25-28 North Wall Quay, the company's address.

Deirdre Foley, of Hollybank Avenue Upper, Ranelagh, Dublin 6, who has a 20 per cent share in Natrium Ltd, faces four charges. One count alleges that it was with her consent or connivance that Natrium Ltd impeded a WRC inspector on June 12, 2015.

Her other three charges are under the Protection of Employment Act for failing to initiate consultations with representatives of employees, failing to supply employee representatives with all relevant information relating to the redundancies and not notifying the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in writing, on June 12, 2015.

Also before the court is Mark Redmond, of Belfry Dale, Citywest Road, Saggart, Co Dublin, an employee of a D2 Private Ltd, the firm owned by Deirdre Foley. He faces the same charges for allegedly failing to notify the Minister or consult with workers' representatives or provide them with relevant information about the redundancies.

Brendan Cooney, a director of OCS Operations Ltd, with an address at Weirview Drive, Stillorgan, Co Dublin, also has the same charges plus an additional one under the Workplace Relations Act for giving false or misleading information to an inspector.