Monday 3 August 2009

Wicklow council begins computer checks in landfill case

Wicklow County Council has begun an examination of its 300 computers for references to the Whitestown illegal landfill in west Wicklow, in order to comply with a request from the High Court.

A computer belonging to the council’s environmental consultant, Seán Ó Laoire, has already been examined by a computer expert for documents relating to Whitestown, at the direction of Mr Justice Daniel O’Keeffe.

The computer searches were initiated after Mr Ó Laoire revealed that the council, for whom he is an expert witness, had not included his documents in its discovery of files on the Whitestown dump.

Mr Justice O’Keeffe is hearing two sets of proceedings to determine what remediation works should be carried out at Whitestown and who is liable for the cost of such works.

In the first action, the county council is seeking orders under the Waste Management Act against the former owner of the Whitestown lands, John O’Reilly; Brownfield Restoration Ireland Ltd, which bought the lands from Mr O’Reilly in 2003 and two waste companies - Swalcliffe Ltd, trading as Dublin Waste and Dean Waste Co Ltd.

In cross-proceedings, Brownfield and Dean Waste allege the council was, itself, engaged in dumping on the lands - including road work materials - and should bear the remediation costs.

In response to a request from the court for all relevant documents, Mr Ó Laoire delivered three folders of documents to the court, but said he was having a difficulty in accessing further information on his computer hard drive. Mr Justice O’Keeffe then directed Mr Ó Laoire to surrender his computer for technical examination - which he did. A copy of the restored hard drive was presented to Mr Ó Laoire and to other parties to the case.

Mr Justice O’Keeffe also asked Wicklow County Council to consider if it had any other files which might not have been made available in the original discovery of documents. A senior executive engineer, Philip Duffy, began an examination of the council’s computers.

At the resumed hearing, Mr Ó Laoire said he had worked to identify files on the restored hard drive, which might be of interest to the court. He produced five lever-arch files of documents in court. He also agreed he would review what paper files he had archived.

Wicklow County Council said it had covered some 60 of its 300 computers.

Mr Justice O’Keeffe said he would give the parties time to consider issues of privilege and be available to hear any motions which might arise from the discovery of additional documents. He would set aside two weeks in October for the resumption of the hearings.

The Irish Times

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