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Drug-unit garda suspended for over 3 years while being investigated, tribunal told

It’s been alleged that the senior member of the Athlone drugs unit, identified as Garda A, was in an improper relationship with a heroin dealer.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

A DRUG-UNIT GARDA accused of colluding with a drug-dealer he was in allegedly in a relationship with, was suspended for three-and-a-half years while being investigated before being restored to duty, a tribunal has heard.

The Disclosures Tribunal heard the garda remained on suspension in relation to other matters.

The Tribunal is in its tenth week of hearing evidence into the treatment of whistleblower Garda Nicholas Keogh, who made a protected disclosure in 2014.

Garda Keogh alleged that the senior member of the Athlone drugs unit, identified to the tribunal as Garda A, was in an improper relationship with a heroin dealer, identified as Ms B.

The tribunal, chaired by Judge Sean Ryan, is investigating if Garda Keogh was targeted, harassed, undermined, or bullied after he made his protected disclosure on 8 May 2014.

The tribunal heard this week of an “inordinate” amount of phone contact between Garda A and Ms B, amounting to over 1,500 contacts by text and phone call between May and August in 2010. Garda A has said he was trying to “cultivate” Ms B as a “tout”.

Chief Superintendent Margaret Nugent of Internal Affairs told the tribunal that she received a disciplinary report in February 2019 on Garda A, arising from Garda Keogh’s collusion claims made in his disclosure. Chief Supt Nugent was also the acting protected disclosures manager at the time.

1691 Disclosures Tribunal (1) Garda whistleblower Nicholas Keogh leaves the Disclosures Tribunal at Dublin Castle. Source: Leah Farrell

Garda Keogh’s claims of malpractice or corruption related to Garda A, two national drug unit gardaí and another senior Garda, relating to dates between 2008 and 2010 in Athlone.

The tribunal heard of an accusation that on 14 September 2008, Garda A frustrated or attempted to frustrate an investigation into a large public order disturbance in Athlone involving Ms B.

The DPP had ordered the seizure of Ms B’s phone in relation to the public order matter and Garda A was accused of later tipping off Ms B and her boyfriend and telling them to dispose of their phones on 23 June 2009.

Chief Supt Nugent wrote in her report that while there was “cause for concern over the excess” contact between Garda A and Ms B, there was no evidence available to definitely say that Garda A contacted Ms B on 23 June 2009 – “a very specific allegation”, she noted.

Chief Supt Nugent recommended to deciding officer Assistant Commissioner David Sheahan that there was not enough in corroborative evidence to warrant a Board of Inquiry on all matters – including an allegation of planting drugs on suspects – and submitted her report on 30 April 2019.

On the same date, Garda A was taken off suspension, which he began on 14 October 2015, when the disciplinary investigation was in its early stages. The delay in the investigation was due to a parallel criminal investigation into the accusations, which did not meet the threshold for any prosecution by the DPP.

“There was nothing to substantiate the majority of the allegations and a board of inquiry was not warranted,” said Chief Supt Nugent, who, in her report, recommended two warnings be administered on other minor matters.

While Garda A was immediately taken off suspension, Sinead McGrath BL, for the tribunal, asked if Garda A remained on suspension for other matters and was told “yes” by Chief Supt Nugent.

The Disclosures Tribunal is adjourned to Monday, 2 March 2020.

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Paul Neilan

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