Judge dismisses media group’s challenge against bid to appoint inspectors

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A High Court judge has dismissed a challenge by Independent News and Media (INM) against a legal bid to appoint inspectors at the company.

Ireland’s corporate watchdog wants the High Court to appoint inspectors to investigate governance arrangements at Ireland’s largest newspaper group, including allegations of a major data breach.

In an attempt to halt the case before it was fully aired, INM challenged how the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) launched its legal bid with the High Court, insisting the watchdog should have consulted it first.

But on Friday, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan dismissed the group’s judicial review and said: “Such a proposition cannot be sustained.”

He said the idea that the company should be consulted first is “novel and without precedent”.

A lawyer for the ODCE has previously said there was a compelling public interest in the appointment of inspectors.

INM chairman Murdoch MacLennan said it was “not in the interests” of INM for an inspector to be appointed.

Mr MacLennan previously said: “Let me tell you this: if there was any wrongdoing in the past it was done without the knowledge or approval of the board, and the board is prepared to take such steps as are necessary to protect INM’s interests and to obtain redress from third parties if advised that it is appropriate to do so.”

In March INM received information from the ODCE about the danger of personal data having been put at risk of inappropriate disclosure. Journalists’ information may have been involved.

INM, which owns the Irish Independent and Belfast Telegraph, appointed Deloitte to conduct a full investigation.

The corporate investigation began in 2016 after concerns were raised over the details of a possible acquisition by INM of radio station Newstalk.

The case will be heard again before the High Court next Wednesday in order to set a date for the ODCE application, which will be heard before the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly.

After Friday morning’s decision, INM reiterated that it would be urging the High Court not to appoint inspectors.

“The Board will consider the terms of today’s decision and the further action that the Company might take in the interests of the Company and its stakeholders,” a statement said.

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