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GSOC says details of Clare Daly's arrest were leaked by gardaí - but no one will be punished

Daly was arrested in 2013 after a breathalyser failed to register a reading, but was later cleared.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE GARDA OMBUDSMAN has said there appears to be sufficient evidence that details of TD Clare Daly’s arrest in 2013 were leaked to the media by gardaí.

Daly was pulled over by gardaí for a wrong turn and arrested after a breathalyser failed to register a reading on 28 January 2013. The media soon after learned of her arrest.

The TD was later cleared of drink driving and lodged a complaint with the Garda Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) and the Data Protection Commissioner about the leak.

Today the ombudsman’s office published its report on the matter, noting that the “considerable media coverage” at the time was a “cause of disquiet” to Daly.

It concluded that there was insufficient evidence of a criminal offence by any individual member of the force to warrant sending a file to the Director of Public Prosecution.

However, in a statement, GSOC said:

…there does appear to be sufficient evidence to state, on the balance of probabilities, that some of the detail relating to Deputy Daly’s arrest emanated from within the Garda Síochána organisation and were made available to members of the media in an unauthorised manner.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Drivetime earlier today, Daly said this is the outcome she had sought, but she would still like an apology from An Garda Síochána. She also commented on how long it took for the GSOC investigation to reach its conclusion:

This case has been going on for nearly three and a half years, which would give people an indication of how difficult it is for GSOC to process any complaints. In the early years they were met with huge delays in requests for documentation from An Garda Síochána.

The TD initiated civil proceedings against the Garda Commissioner a number of years ago and this process is still ongoing.

“Unfortunately that’s how long our justice system takes to process these things, but obviously the favourable outcome from GSOC in our report will probably assist that case,” she said.

The timeline

GSOC’s report on the incident says the two gardaí who stopped Daly in the early hours of 29 January 2013 claim they did know who she was until a passing colleague told them.

After her release from custody, Daly said she first became aware the media knew of her arrest when she was contacted by RTÉ journalists shortly after 4pm that day. She was told by one of these journalists that they knew she had been arrested for a drink-driving offence and they were going to run a story on it.

They also said the Irish Daily Star newspaper had the story since 11am that morning. The first query to the Garda Press Office was from a journalist with the tabloid newspaper at 4.45pm.

The GSOC investigation found a call to a landline in the Irish Daily Star was made from a garda extension in a one-person office assigned to a civilian administrator. The office was generally unlocked and the employee said they had no knowledge of Daly’s arrest until the news that evening.

A second call from the public office of a garda station to a Daily Star number was also traced. There are no PULSE checks originating from people attached to this station.

Daly also received a number of text messages from an Irish Daily Mail reporter, with one referring to the “hot whiskey episode”.

Looking on PULSE

According to PULSE records, there were 36 separate transactions on the incident from 24 different people between around 2am and the first call to the Garda Press Office.

Daly’s personal ID within the system was also accessed seven times during the time frame, by seven different members. Four were from Kilmainham garda station, one was from Pearse Street and two others were from Coolock and Newbridge stations.

“Some of these access records appeared particularly unusual and were looked into thoroughly,” GSOC’s report states. When asked, the Newbridge garda said they had a particular interest in traffic-related incidents and denied telling anyone about it.

Some 145 people potentially had knowledge of the politician’s arrest, according to GSOC, either by checking PULSE or by receiving an email from the sergeant in Kilmainham.

Checks were conducted on the PULSE system from shortly after the creation of the record on PULSE, by garda members across Ireland. It is difficult to see how the majority of the checks could be considered to be the result of legitimate enquiries into the investigation or detection of crime.

‘Why did you ring Mick Wallace?’

The report today refers to a number of media articles attributing details to “garda sources”, noting that the time of arrest in these articles is the same as the time logged on PULSE.

Part of Daly’s complaint included an allegation that gardaí told the media she had requested TD Mick Wallace be informed of her arrest while she was in custody.

A text message from a reporter in the Daily Mail to Daly stated:

Understand you rang Mick Wallace TD on your allowed phone call by gardaí. Why was that?

Her legal representative claimed such a leak was designed to embarrass the TD.

Wallace also received texts from this journalist, with the first asking:

Sympathy for Clare?

A second text said:

Understand Clare Daly rang you Mick on her allowed phone call by gardaí. Was that you? Did you collect her?

Contacts with journalists in these cases resulted in refusals to identify their sources. However GSOC said enquiries revealed the journalist who sent the text messages had been in contact with a telephone number registered to a detective garda.

As part of the investigation, a Twitter account linked to the detective was found to have sent tweets to Clare Daly alluding to the incident.

“How big was the hot whiskey?” one asked. “Boiling a bottle of Jameson & swallowing it doesn’t count as 1″.

The garda said he could not recall sending these tweets to the TD and denied leaking any information.

‘She had a right to privacy’

GSOC concluded it is “more likely than not” that at least some of the details of the arrest were provided by someone from within An Garda Síochána. However the ombudsman is unable to conclude whether the information was passed directly or indirectly to a journalist.

The Ombudsman commission said it is of the view that Deputy Daly “was entitled to the presumption of innocence and that she had a right to privacy. These rights appear to have been infringed by the release of such information.”

Responding to the findings of the investigation, a garda spokesperson said they were “a matter of concern”.

“Members of An Garda Síochána hold a privileged position in relation to the sensitive information they have access to and this information should only be used for appropriate purposes in accordance with legislation and Garda policy and procedures.

The Commissioner will examine the findings of the GSOC report.”

Read: Gardaí involved in arrest of Clare Daly ‘failing to cooperate with investigation’>

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