Debenhams liquidators seek injunctions over alleged unlawful actions at stores

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Th e joint provisional liquidators of the Irish arm of fashion retailer Debenhams are seeking High Court injunctions restraining allegedly unlawful actions by former employees and others at any of its 11 stores across the country.

Injunctions are also sought to restrain interference with the liquidators efforts to take possession of the company’s stock and other assets and realising the value of those.

Kieran Wallace, who, with Andrew O’Leary of KPMG, was appointed joint provisional liquidator to Debenhams Retail Ireland Ltd last April, said in an affidavit, while the liquidators have “little doubt” some of those involved in the actions are motivated by frustration and anger over their treatment by the Debenhams group, there is “unfortunately nothing” the liquidators can do to meet their demand of an additional redundancy package of some €13 million, on top of statutory redundancy entitlements.

Ex parte application

Mandate, the trade union representing 85 per cent of the workforce, had said picketing should be peaceful and did not support unlawful industrial action, he added.

Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds granted an ex parte (one side only represented) application on Wednesday for the injunctions application to be served at short notice and returned the matter to next Tuesday.

She said the defendants should be provided with ‘cease and desist’ letters in advance of that hearing and, if there is consent to the orders sought, the court should be informed.

When the judge asked to be told if the liquidators become aware of any plans for protests at the Four Courts next week arising from the application, Lyndon MacCann SC, for the liquidators, said they were likely to “the last to know” of any such plans but would tell the court if they became aware.

Injunctions are sought against three individuals – Stephen Troy, Fairfield Close, Belvedere Manor, Co Waterford; Denis O’Brien, Sunrise Crescent, Browns Road, Co Waterford; and Carole Bridgeman, Meadowpark Lawn, Ballyvolane, Co Cork – and any persons acting in concert with them or having notice of the application.

It is alleged Mr Troy and Mr O’Brien were involved in unlawful actions at Debenhams Waterford store and Ms Bridgeman was among others who unlawfully gained access to a store in Cork in early September and refused to leave for a number of days.

Value for creditors

On Wednesday, Mr MacCann, with Mairead McKenna BL, for the liquidators, said they had no choice but to come to court reluctantly as the situation at several stores had become “critical” and the liquidators ran the risk, if they did not get the company’s stock back, of not being able to realise its value for creditors.

Efforts by the liquidators representatives on the ground to persuade those involved to desist from unlawful actions complained of had proven unsuccessful, he said.

In court documents, it was stated the liquidators had come to court arising out of allegedly unlawful actions by the named defendants at the Debenhams stores at City Square Shopping Centre, Waterford, and Mahon Point Shopping Centre, Cork.

It is claimed the defendants and unknown others have breached the Industrial Relations Act 1990 in allegedly maintaining unlawful actions in blocking access to, and egress from, the stores, amounting to unlawful interference with the liquidation.

In a lenghy affidavit, Mr Wallace said what was originally a Mandate supported industrial action has in recent weeks “taken on an altogether more sinister form”.

There have been “numerous instances” over the last number of weeks of third parties, many of whom cannot be identified because their faces are covered by masks, interfering with the liquidators and their staff in carrying out their duties, he said.

The behaviour of individuals engaging in unlawful demonstrations at some or all of the company’s stores is causing severe disruption to the orderly wind down of the company’s operations, he said. The liquidators are “strongly of the view” the form of demonstrations being carried out by certain former employees and/or members of the public is unlawful.

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Source: Business News