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Garda whistleblower alleges litany of abuses by senior gardaí as 'culture of fear' cripples station

She remains on stress leave over two-and-a-half years after making the disclosure.

Image: RollingNews.ie

A GARDA WHISTLEBLOWER who submitted a protected disclosure about alleged serious malpractice within one garda station is still waiting for her case to be addressed two-and-a-half years after submitting a litany of allegations against senior officers, TheJournal.ie can reveal today.

The garda has been out on stress leave since making the official protected disclosure in 2016. Garda human resource management carried out an investigation and have sent a file to the Garda Commissioner’s office. The senior officers allegedly involved in a number of problematic activities have not been subject to any disciplinary proceedings.

The claims of malpractice centre around a garda station district headquarters, which cannot be identified for legal reasons.

In a signed sworn statement to management, the whistleblower claims that the actions of a small number of senior officers at the station have created a ‘culture of fear’ where rank-and-file gardaí are afraid to raise concerns about policing in the area because of potential consequences to their careers.

The garda whistleblower alleges that prior to her leave:

  • She was disciplined after finding a weapon in her district
  • Officers were instructed to purposely input inaccurate data into the Garda Pulse system to protect a criminal informant
  • Senior gardaí failed to tell her that a criminal who threatened her was believed to be in possession of a handgun

In her statement to gardaí, the garda says the station is being run as if it’s the personal police force of some of the senior gardaí in the station.

She describes a “palpable fear” of one of the senior officers among members of the force because of the way he treats gardaí.

The protected disclosure made by this whistleblower was just one of three submitted by serving members of An Garda Síochána in 2016.

Garda management has been attempting to make the police force a more transparent organisation in the wake of the whistleblower scandal involving Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

The background to the protected disclosure

It has been alleged that these issues in the workplace all began when a violent criminal who was on bail for a serious offence was not penalised for breaching bail conditions on a number of occasions with the alleged approval of senior officers in the station.

This man was an informant for the station’s detective division and it has been alleged that gardaí were ordered to turn a blind eye to his bail breaches in return for information.

The garda whistleblower claims that she was not aware of these conditions and arrested the man in relation to a drug dealing investigation. The garda had been part of a surveillance operation targeting drug dealers who were allegedly selling outside a school in the district.

Local gardai believed the individual was selling drugs while he was on bail and began a surveillance operation of which the whistleblower was part. Three months later, after the surveillance operation was discontinued, the garda who made the protected disclosure spotted the man out in the local town, breaching his court-ordered curfew. She was on duty at the time.

She and her work partner followed him home. They were told by him to check an area outside the town. He did not specify what they might find but said there was something “interesting” there.  They searched a green area off a main road but found nothing. They arrived back the next day in the daylight before their next shift started and discovered a dangerous weapon.

File Photo The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors isÊto hold a specialÊconference in June toÊdiscuss possible industrial action if the government does not commit to pay restoration. AGSIÊGeneral SecretaryÊJohn JacobÊcalled on delegates at the a A file photo of two gardaí. Source: RollingNews.ie

Both gardaí were commended by senior officers for going above and beyond the call of duty and for getting the weapon off the streets.

Days later, the convicted criminal who had told them where to look, was arrested and questioned over the find. Five days after the find, the gardaí who found the weapon were informed they were facing disciplinary action for searching the field outside of their hours and for other alleged breaches of garda rules.

They had been praised by a senior officer days before and were in line for an official commendation. It is the contention of the whistleblower that the detective unit at the station complained that their informant was being compromised by the whistleblower.

‘Risk to safety’

The next month, the criminal informant came into the station to sign-on as per his bail conditions. He told the whistleblower that it ‘wasn’t nice’ being arrested over the weapon find and that he believed that his giving of the information on it was in exchange for gardaí dropping charges on a minor offence against him.

The heavily-redacted protected disclosure seen by TheJournal.ie states: “He asked me why he had been arrested and that it was not nice being dragged out of your bed at half eight in the morning considering he had given over the information about the weapon.

He told me he had been advised by Detective Sergeant X to make a complaint against me to the Ombudsman. I told him he was free to do so if he wished but he told me that he had no intention of doing so. He then said to me that they appeared to be more interested at getting me than getting him.

The criminal said that the gardaí who questioned him told him that the whistleblower made a statement saying that he was not to receive any special treatment as a result of giving the information on the weapon. Directly after this interaction, she told the local inspector that she now felt more at risk.

The garda said she felt more and more concerned for her and her family’s safety and that she felt she was being intimidated by the criminal informant. She then asked senior officers to conduct a review of her safety. The garda was sporadically updated on her safety concerns but said she was always told there was no threat.

The officer originally asked for updates on her safety in the immediate aftermath of the informant’s arrest in relation to the weapon find at the start of 2015. She has claimed that she was updated fewer than four times in nearly a year about the status of any threat against her.

When the criminal was convicted of the minor offence in early 2016, a sergeant informed her that there was intelligence to suggest that the man was in possession of a handgun and that she should be careful around him. This information was well known to many officers in the station but was not disclosed to her.

As a result of hearing this information, the garda went on stress leave, believing she was being put at risk as punishment for her behaviour. She is still on leave to this day and is waiting to return to the station.

TheJournal.ie attempted to contact the whistleblower through sources in Leinster House but we were told to direct all queries to the press office as she did not wish to make any comment on the matter.

Her protected disclosure was made at the start of 2016 and a Chief Superintendent was appointed to investigate it. Statements from officers based at the station were taken in May 2016. The senior officers against whom the allegations were made were also formally interviewed at this time. The final file was sent to the commissioner’s office in February 2017 and the whistleblower has not heard anything since other than that it is being processed.

Under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, gardaí may confidentially disclose allegations of wrongdoings within the force. Every disclosure is dealt with by an officer at Assistant Commissioner level in the first instance, in complete confidentiality. As of now, there have been no findings from the investigation and no disciplinary proceedings have been brought against any officer in relation to this disclosure.

Garda police disclosures tribunal The Charleton Tribunal investigating the treatment of whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe by senior gardaí is ongoing. Source: Niall Carson via PA

In the last two-and-a-half-years, the whistleblower has claimed that morale at the station in question is almost non-existent and that her colleagues are now living in a state of fear.

She has alleged that sick leave, transfer requests and early retirements are rife. This could not be confirmed by management for operational reasons.

Her statement to gardaí read: “Morale has definitely plummeted in the district. I would say it has plummeted since 2015 and this drop in morale is directly linked to the [senior officer's] attitude and the way he deals with members.

“I also agree that members using their initiative are treated in a negative manner by the [senior garda]. I also agree that the goodwill of the members with regard to staying on Friday and Saturday nights, without extra pay, has gone. I am aware that there is a palpable fear of him among the members. This is led by the way he treats and communicates to members. He never acknowledges good work and is always critical. Commendations are rarely given.”

As of today, there has been no movement on the protected disclosure and the officer is still out on stress leave. Despite repeated attempts to contact garda management over her protected disclosure, there has been no update and she remains on paid leave.

An Garda Síochána said it does not comment on protected disclosures made to the organisation. However, its policy on how they deal with disclosures can be found here.

Tomorrow: How senior gardaí allegedly accused the whistleblower of sexual impropriety in a bid to discredit her complaint.

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