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High Court rules that John Delaney must examine documents seized by ODCE by mid-January

The court has been asked by the ODCE to determine if some files are covered by legal professional privilege.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

A HIGH COURT judge has ruled that the examination by ex-FAI boss John Delaney of files seized by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) as part of its criminal investigation into matters at the FAI must be completed by mid-January.

Delaney has sought to inspect 280,000 documents, covering a period of 17 years, which were seized by the ODCE from the FAI’s offices last February as part of its investigation into Irish soccer’s governing body.

The court has been asked by the ODCE to determine if some files are covered by legal professional privilege and cannot be used by the corporate watchdog as part of its probe.

Delaney has been allowed to inspect the files, including thousands of emails, to see which are private to him or covered by professional legal privilege.

The matter first came before the courts last February.

While a timetable for the completion of the inspection was agreed, lawyers for the UK-based former FAI Chief Executive sought extra time to complete the inspection.

The extension was needed due to the large volume of material, it was argued.

In a series of motions before the court, Delaney, represented by Paul McGarry SC, sought more time in order to complete the inspection.

The extension would be aided by the ODCE allowing his lawyers to apply additional search terms to help identify more files so they can be inspected.

The court was also asked to extend the completion date to mid-January 2021.

Counsel said that a lot of work had already been done by Delaney’s side, and that number of the 3,000 files previously ‘tagged’ by Delaney’s lawyers as being covered by professional legal privilege had been reduced.

Counsel also said that if Delaney was not able to inspect all of the files before any designated completion date set by the court, then he would have claim professional legal privilege on all of the outstanding material.

It was said that this could lead to more work for those involved in the entire process, and that Delaney was not dragging his feet or trying to delay the process.

‘Unwarranted and unnecessary’

The applications were opposed by the ODCE, represented by Kerida Naidoo SC, who said Delaney’s application for additional time was “unwarranted and unnecessary”.

Any extra time would cause more delay to the investigation process, counsel added.

The ODCE said it wanted the court to fix a date in December for the competition of the extension.

Counsel said that Delaney had initially sought a December completion date when the matter was previously before the court.

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In her ruling, Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds said that she was not prepared to make an order allowing Delaney to apply additional search terms to the file inspection process.

The judge said that the material seized had already been inspected using sophisticated software and through several search terms provided by Delaney’s lawyers.

Referring to concerns raised by Delaney about his privacy, the judge said she was satisfied that safeguards contained within the relevant legislation would protect his rights.

The judge added that the inspection process should be completed by 11 January next.

She also confirmed the appointment of barrister Niall Nolan as the independent person who would examine the review materials over which claims of legal privilege are made.

The judge said that Nolan will prepare a report for the court which will aid the judge to determine which of the material is privileged and which is not.

The matter will return before the court in the new year.

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Aodhan O Faolain

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