It was always going to be a long shot that Rory McIlroy and his team would be forced to allow forensic inspection of their mobile devices and so it has proved.
In a reserved judgement published on Friday, Mr Justice Raymond Fullam refused orders from Horizon Sports Management seeking inspection of McIlroy's mobile phones and those of Donal Casey, who later became CEO of Rory McIlroy Inc, and of Sean O’Flaherty, the golfer’s personal assistant.
Horizon and the other defendants in the case — Gurteen and Canovan Management Services— had been looking for expert inspection of eight mobile phones and any computers used by the golfer at any time between October 2011 and December 2013.
According to the Belfast Telegraph's report of the judgement, Justice Fullam said the proposed inspection included “unspecified devices of which there is no evidence of use” by McIlroy.
“The proposed forensic examination of the phones is a speculative exercise which goes beyond the parameters of the evidence.”
The applications had been made last year in advance of the hearing of the golfer’s claim he is entitled to repudiate a December 2011 agreement with the three companies, on grounds that it was improvident.
Horizon Sport Management Ltd, Gurteen Ltd and Canovan Management Services deny his claims and have counter-claimed for damages.
The companies claimed Rory McIlroy deliberately “wiped clean” up to eight mobile phones which may have contained important information relating to his legal action against his former sports management company.
It is claimed this “factory resetting” of phones was also done to devices of Mr Casey and Mr O’Flaherty, and of the golfer’s father, Gerry McIlroy.
Judge Fullam said Mr Casey and Mr O’Flaherty were not parties in the case, and making inspection orders without their consent would be oppressive.
The judge also refused that Gerry McIlroy, the golfer’s father, be compelled to provide a further affidavit.
The motions brought by Horizon last month were not successful but as was pointed out during the hearings, they served to air hitherto unknown elements in the case.
As Sean O’Flaherty’s barrister, Mark Connaughton pointed out:
“There's a lot I want to say to the Court about my particular status as a notice party in this because I keep thinking, when I hear Mr. Collins, that I am a co-defendant. I'm really tired of that and I want to address that, but I'm in the Court's hands in relation to that.
“The other thing I want to say — because I know a lot of this grand-standing is done for other purposes. This is about something that occurred after Mr. McIlroy, whom I don't represent, wrote to Mr. Ridge on 1st April telling him he couldn't trust him any more. So this is not like something that's taking place way back in the mists of time. This is what Mr. Collins is highlighting as being a critically important thing to his case, when he knows at that stage that Mr. McIlroy is out the door.”
“There are allegations on both sides,” Justice Fullam said in December. “There are allegations of leaking documents to journalists against the Defendants and there are allegations against the Plaintiff. Now, this case or these proceedings, that’s the flavour of them. So it's a question of sauce for the goose or sauce for the gander.”
December's hearings the name of businessman Dermot Desmond into the public domain
Mr Desmond was approached for advice not by McIlroy directly but by his caddie, JP Fitzgerald via Sean O'Flaherty. The court heard that Mr Desmond's lawyer concluded, "after careful analysis", that the termination [of McIlroy's contract with Horizon] was not warranted.
Horizon's barrister, Paul Sreenan told the court:
"The Defendants have very strong grounds to believe that during the former period, January to April 2013, there was intense activity and communication between the Plaintiff and a number of individuals who were clearly involved in his decision to no longer be represented by the Defendants.
“They included his father Gerry McIlroy; his caddy JP Fitzgerald; a former consultant to the Defendants Donal Casey, who subsequently became Chief Executive of Rory McIlroy Inc in or about October 2013; the businessman Dermot Desmond; a former employee of the Defendant Sean O'Flaherty, who subsequently became Chief of Staff of Rory McIlroy Inc; an associate of Gerry McIlroy, Barry Funston, who subsequently joined the Board of Rory McIlroy Inc.
"The Defendants have equally strong grounds to believe that some or all of these individuals were heavily involved in advising the Plaintiff to establish his own management company, Rory McIlroy Inc, for the purposes of replacing the Defendants as his management agent.The Defendants believe that during the period prior to April 2013 and subsequently up October 2013, there was intense activity and communication between the Plaintiff and these individuals both in relation to the establishment of Rory McIlroy Inc and other matters at issue in the proceedings.”
The case goes to trail in the High Court on February 3 and is expected to last between six and eight weeks.
South African Open — Peter Lawrie bogeyed two of his last three holes to miss the cut in the South African Open by a stroke in his first start of 2015.
The Dubliner, who lost his card at the end of 2014, was well inside the cut line with nine holes to play but came home in 40 — dropping shots at the 10th, 11th, 16th and 18th — for a 76 to miss out by the minimum on three over par.
Gareth Maybin, who also lost his card last year, made it the weekend on level par after a 73.
He was five shots behind England's Andy Sullivan, who remained on course for a maiden European Tour title.
Former Walker Cup player Sullivan added a 70 to his opening 66 at Glendower Golf Club to reach eight under par, one shot ahead of former Masters Tournament winner Charl Schwartzel.