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Drew Harris defends sending 'letter of congratulations' to under-investigation suspended garda

Yesterday in Templemore Garda College an Assistant Commissioner presented the male garda with a certificate signed by the Garda Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER DREW HARRIS has defended issuing “a letter of congratulations” to a suspended garda.

Yesterday in Templemore Garda College an Assistant Commissioner presented the male garda with a certificate signed by Harris.

It comes as middle-ranking gardaí at the AGSI conference in Westport aim to raise awareness of what they have described as an ‘overburdensome’ oversight structure. They have also called for an overhaul of processes around suspension of gardaí.

The letter was in honour of the garda completing a university course in Human Rights law. He began the course while suspended and under investigation.

The garda is being investigated by the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI) in relation to the alleged cancelling of penalty point ticket offences. 

He, and a number of other colleagues, are out of work for the last three years – he has not been charged and has been found guilty of no wrongdoing either criminally or under the garda discipline regime.

There are more than 90 gardaí currently suspended from duty as investigations are underway into their conduct. 

The claims against the officers range from serious crime allegations to minor matters associated with their conduct. 

The suspension policy came under heavy scrutiny from politicians and garda representative bodies. 

It comes just days after revelations about the suspension of a garda for giving a bicycle to an elderly man during Covid-19 laid bare serious questions about how the policy is implemented. 

McEntee has said the disciplinary process for the garda at the centre of the bicycle case took “longer than anybody would like”.

There has been extensive criticism of the garda discipline system and comments by Drew Harris in the wake of the case.

Today, speaking to The Journal at the AGSI conference in Westport, Co Mayo, Drew Harris said: “If they have undertaken the certificate and that is the recognition that is due to them. If they have taken the certificate and study around policing and human rights then they should be congratulated for finishing that course, in this case while suspended.”

Harris said that a consultation process is underway into a new suspensions policy and that will conclude in April.

He said he “needs to hear from” in regard to their views on any changes they believe are needed. 

“I am open to suggestions they have talked about today. Overall in respect to discipline I share with them that it should be dealt with quickly and I there are learnings for us in all round in recent investigations,” he said. 

The issue of suspensions is a major topic for garda middle management delegates at the AGSI conference. 

Paul Curran, the President of AGSI said that the suspension system is “not fit for purpose in our view” – they have called for an independent oversight body to take over the measure.

“The length of time that investigations are taking is unacceptable and the level of communication to suspended members is dismal. There are too many cases of long-term suspensions for members where members are languishing on suspension in some cases for 3 to 5 years and more.

“The knock-on effects of suspension on a member can have severe financial, emotional, reputational or Welfare issues attached to it, which must be considered carefully,” he said. 

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