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GSOC 'mistaken' in instigating criminal probe into garda who later died by suicide

It follows an investigation into the tragic set of events that saw Sgt Michael Galvin taking his own life in Ballyshannon Garda Station last year.

18/2/2014 GSOC Offices Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

A NEW INQUIRY has found that it was a ‘mistake’ for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) to instigate a criminal investigation into the actions of a garda after the death of a woman in a road crash.

The incident in question happened on New Year’s morning last year (1 January 2015) and saw Sheena Steward knocked down and killed by a minibus.

Following this, on 28 May 2015 the body of Sergeant Michael Galvin was found at Ballyshannon Garda Station.

He had died by suicide.

The report, published in part today and carried out by Mr Justice Clarke, sets out to establish the circumstances that led up to this incident – and determines how justified GSOC were in taking the actions that they did.

The independent inquiry into Sgt Galvin’s death came following a request by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI).

What happened? 

In the early hours of New Year’s Day, 33-year-old Sheena Stewart was knocked down and killed by a minibus.

On the night of the incident Sgt Galvin was not meant to be on duty, but had been called in to provide cover.

Around 40 minutes into his shift Galvin was called to a hit and run, and noted that he had seen Stewart standing on a footpath as he made his way to the incident.

It later emerged in CCTV footage that Stewart had been standing on the road near to the footpath, and not on the footpath itself – an anomaly that was genesis of the investigation.

Last year, Galvin family solicitor Gerard O’Donnell stated that the criminal investigation into this had left Galvin in fear that he could be sent to jail or convicted of a criminal offence.

At the time that Galvin took his own life, it had been established by GSOC that – along with a number of other gardaí – he was not culpable of any wrongdoing. However, he was allegedly unaware of this at the time of his death.

What does today’s report tell us?  

Today’s report is significant in that it states that GSOC was “mistaken” in its investigation into the Galvin and other gardaí.

Judge Clarke states that there has been “no suggestion” that GSOC investigating officers were “wrong in reaching the conclusions which they did” and that “the existence of a great tragedy does not, necessarily and in and of itself, mean that there was great wrong”. 

However, in the concluding remarks the report states that the decision by GSOC to instigate a criminal investigation into Galvin and his colleagues was “mistaken”.

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It does also note that while the decision to instigate a criminal investigation was mistaken, it would not justify any action being taken against the individuals concerned.

Speaking about today’s report, Tánaiste Francis Fitzgerald said: “Sergeant Galvin’s death was a tragedy for his wife and family, for his Garda colleagues an for his community.”

This week I again met Mrs Galvin, along with her family and solicitor. I know that no words of mine can heal the hurt that so many feel at his loss.

Annual cross border organised crime seminar Tanáiste Frances Fitzgerald Source: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Only part 1 of the report produced by Judge Clarke is being published today.

In her statement Tanáiste Fitzgerald stated that there are a number of legal issue related to the publication of the full report at this stage, with it having the potential to prejudice a pending criminal proceedings.

Responding to the publication of the report, GSOC welcomed the findings of the independent inquiry, and the fact that it had been found that GSOC’s officers had undertaken their duties correctly in relation to the investigation of the road death.

The Ombudsman went on to express its sympathies to both families, and stated that it would be giving consideration over the coming weeks to the any action that should be taken arising from the recommendations in the report.

If you need someone to talk to, contact:

  • Console  1800 247 247 (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)

  • Aware 1890 303 302 (depression, anxiety)

  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie - (suicide, self-harm)

  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)

  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

Read: Family of garda who took his own life do not want GSOC involved in investigation into his death

Also: GSOC Commissioner Kieran Fitzgerald in a coma after falling onto rocks in Spain

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