DECISION Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman.
Court refuses DPP appeal on costs in favour of Mayo waste companies
An appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions on behalf of the Competition Authority, against an order for costs granted in favour of a number of western-based waste removal companies has been dismissed by Supreme Court Judge, Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, sitting with Mr Justice Moriarty and Mr Justice Hogan.
Costs had earlier been awarded to Stanley Bourke, Bourke Waste Removal, Westport, Patrick and Declan McGrath, McGrath Industrial Waste, Castlebar, Paul Francis Gleeson, Wheeley Environmental Refuse Services, Tuam and Padraig Hughes, Tullycommons, Castlebar, following their acquittals on all counts of competition-related offences heard before Mr Justice McKechnie and a jury in the Central Criminal Court in 2009.
The trial judge, in a detailed reserved judgement, made the award of costs to each of the respondents and this in turn led to the appeal by the DPP.
Referring to comments by the trial judge, Mr Justice Hardiman said he had intimated that the respondents might well have done the Competition Authority a favour in the case by their criticisms (of the authority), so that they might in future adopt the criticisms voiced and carry out much more thorough investigations, before actively participating in a prosecution by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The trial judge reiterated his view of the degree of cooperation afforded by the respondents, noting that all of them were respectable persons with no prior convictions, and had not been associating with persons in relation to whom any influence of guilt might have been justified.
In further comment, Mr Justice Hardiman said the respondents had little option but to incur appreciable expense in meeting complaints made against them and on the facts that had emerged it would be an injustice if they were not recompensed in this regard. He added that trial courts must seek to do justice between the parties and balance competing policy considerations, “while in appropriate cases in which the factors primarily addressed in this judgement have been carefully assessed, providing the acquitted persons do not suffer unfair consequential financial losses”.
Speaking on behalf of the respondents, Mr Declan McGrath, a director of McGrath Industrial Waste, said they were very pleased with the outcome of the appeal.
“We are very pleased to be further vindicated following our earlier acquittal, by having Mr Justice McKechnie’s order for costs in our favour upheld against the appeal of the DPP on behalf of the Competition Authority. We note with particular satisfaction the comments from the appeal court that it would be an injustice if we were not recompensed,” he said.
In January 2006, the Competition Authority received complaints alleging that competitors had agreed to divide up markets between them in the waste disposal industry across Mayo County, in breach of Section 4 of the Competition Act. Following a Competition Authority investigation, the DPP, in December 2008, initiated proceedings against the five men.
All of the defendants, except for Mr Padraig Hughes, were charged with entering into an agreement between August 24 2005 and September 2 2005, which had as its objective, the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition in the provision of domestic waste collection services in County Mayo (contrary to section 4(1) and 6 of the Competition Act 2002).
Mr Padraig Hughes was charged with aiding and abetting the three waste businesses in the commission of the offence.
The eight defendants were tried before a jury at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Galway between June 23 2009 and July 2 2009. The trial judge, Mr. Justice McKechnie, sent the case to the jury for deliberation. All defendants were unanimously acquitted on all counts.