THE GARDA OMBUDSMAN Commission (GSOC) has criticised An Garda Síochana for providing ‘misleading’ and ‘inaccurate’ information during its investigation into the behaviour of four gardaí at a student protest in 2010.
A report published yesterday by the Ombudsman also points to delays in information requested for the investigation being provided by gardaí including some 60 statements by gardaí and footage from helmet cameras.
In November 2010, some 40,000 third level student attended a march, organised by the Union of Students in Ireland, in Dublin’s city centre. The march was in protest against plans to double the registration fee rate.
During the protest, between 30 and 50 of the students occupied the lobby at the Department of Finance and were removed by gardaí with a number of scuffles reported.
Following the protest, the GSOC received 40 separate complaints about the behaviour of gardaí present. Three of these were directed for further investigation and reports concerning the actions of four gardaí and recommending disciplinary action were forwarded to An Gardaí Síochana.
In the report published yesterday, the Ombudsman said that throughout its investigation, there were “unnecessary delays” in relation to the provision of material that was requested from gardaí.
“This was exacerbated by the provision of information by the Garda Síochána that proved to be inaccurate,” the report said.
Protocol requires that information requested by the GSOC be provided within 30 days but despite several requests since late November 2010, documentation had still not been made available in March of 2011.
A full 224 days after the initial information request, just five documents – two ‘Operational Orders’ that were preparted in advance of the protest and three reports complied by inspectors involved in the policing of it.
An Garda Síochana was asked to confirm that no further reports or statements existed in relation to the policing of the protests and the following response was provided:
No reports or statements have been submitted by individual Gardaí who were on duty at the protest.
The Ombudsman said this was “misleading and later proved to be incorrect”.
Statements and video footage
It emerged that statements had been provided after the protest and that an investigation file had been completed shortly after the event.
Almost two years after the original request for documents, the Ombudsman received this file which contained over 60 statements made by gardaí.
An examination of the Garda investigation file revealed evidence within the previously undisclosed statements, which would have had a significant impact on GSOC’s investigations and significantly expedited the process of identifying the gardaí concerned.
Video footage from helmet cameras was also eventually provided.
In the reports the Ombudsman expressed concern about baton reports completed after the protest as many of the gardaí involved in the operation can been seen in the footage drawing and using their batons on the crowd. It said these reports did not contain sufficient evidence to identify those gardaí who used their batons nor those whose actions may have been subject to allegations of misconduct.
The investigation is now concluded and the Ombudsman said it is now awaiting notification of any disciplinary action taken on foot of the three reports it forwarded to An Garda Síochana.