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Senior gardaí allegedly spread rumours that whistleblower was having an affair to discredit her claims

A protected disclosure alleging a litany of misconduct incidents has been made to garda management.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

A GARDA WHISTLEBLOWER who made a protected disclosure about the behaviour of a senior officer has claimed that he spread rumours that she was having an affair around the station in a bid to discredit her case, TheJournal.ie has learned.

The whistleblower, who is married, alleges that the rumours about her were spread to try to stop her from speaking out about alleged misconduct in the station and to lower her reputation in the eyes of her colleagues.

The woman, who made the protected disclosure to management in 2016, claims that she was repeatedly asked about the affair in private conversations with people she knew.

Yesterday, we revealed that a protected disclosure made by the woman accused senior gardaí at her garda station of a litany of abuses.

She alleged that senior gardaí at the station, directed by a senior officer, failed to tell her that a criminal who previously threatened her was believed to be in possession of a handgun. She also made a number of other complaints regarding the behaviour of senior gardaí which she says has had a direct impact on how policing is being conducted in the district.

It has been alleged that the actions of senior gardaí have installed a culture of fear into the station where rank-and-file officers are terrified to bring up any form of malpractice lest they be admonished or disciplined.

As well as the rumour about her having an affair, the garda was also told by a sergeant at the station who, after examining the whistleblower’s phone, said he was happy to see that there had been no calls or texts between her and a violent convict.

The garda claims that it emerged through conversations with serving members that the senior officer at the station ordered that all phone calls made by the woman to the station should be documented and write up a brief description of what the call entailed.

According to the protected disclosure, he also ordered gardaí to review the whistleblower’s timesheets, leave requests and sick days and compare them with those of another garda in the station to see if a pattern emerged. A desk clerk who was ordered to search these records asked the senior officer why he wanted her to do this. He allegedly told her he suspected the two gardaí were having an affair.

When TheJournal.ie contacted the whistleblower about her complaints, we were told there would be no comment forthcoming and that we should direct any queries to the Garda Press Office.

However, a well-placed source in the region who would only speak on the condition of anonymity, said that the woman’s life was turned upside down as a result of the rumour.

“It didn’t matter how many times she said it wasn’t true, everyone was saying ‘there’s no smoke without fire’ and that there was something going on with the other garda. He has actually been supporting her through all this since she made the protected disclosure and even before that. He saw the way she was being treated and went in to stand up for her.

“The way I see it is this woman’s name is being blackened because she had the nerve to challenge her superior about his conduct. It stinks of trying to ruin someone’s reputation to save yourself.”

The rumours

According to the protected disclosure: “[A Garda] told me that when I had called, the [senior officer] was standing beside her, and that when the call had finished he asked her to document the call.

“He then instructed her to send me an email. [Garda] told him that she did not have my private email address and he told her that he would get a Sergeant to do it. [Garda] told me that she had told [a superior] that she was not comfortable doing this.

“[Garda] told me another named garda who was the district clerk at the station told her in early 2016 to take both [the garda accused of the affair] and my [leave] forms and TOIL [time off in lieu] applications to see if there was a pattern.

“She told me that the district clerk had asked her to do this on the direction of the senior officer. She told me that [district clerk] had asked her to draw up a chart of any days that corresponded.

“[Garda] told me that she had been asked to look back on our records to August 2015. She also told me that this had been the reason all the units had been changed to keep us apart.”

The rumour of the affair spread through the large station and both members were repeatedly asked about it in private conversations by their friends.

The whistleblower’s husband has also filed a complaint to GSOC in relation to this.

File Photo SENIOR GARDAÍ HAVE expressed concern about the volume of Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) investigations they have to undertake on top of their day-to-day duties. President of the Association of Garda Superintendents Noel Cunningha GSOC is investigating as aspect of this protected disclosure. Source: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

The protected disclosure was 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.

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 or higher 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.

Physical intimidation

The whistleblower also accused a senior officer of physically intimidating her after she made an official complaint to management regarding his behaviour.

Three and a half months after making her protected disclosure, the garda described how the senior officer at the station made her feel unsafe and that she was the victim of unwanted physical contact from him in front of a number of on-duty gardai at the station.

In the summer of 2016, she was contacted by a member at her station who told her that another officer was taking over one of her cases due to her being on leave. An important file relating to a case could not be found so the whistleblower returned to the station a few days later and searched for the file. She was being briefed by other gardaí whether the senior officer was in at the time so she could avoid any potential conflict.

She managed to print out the file only for the senior officer to “burst through the door”. There were at least six gardaí in the room at this time.

A heavily-redacted copy of the disclosure, seen by TheJournal.ie, reads:

“[A garda] who had been standing to my left, stepped away from me and walked towards the hatch. I remember her walking across his path as he walked towards me. I knew he was walking towards me and I felt petrified. I felt my legs go weak [and I] instantly plonked down in the chair beside me.

“Up until this point the atmosphere had been positive. I was glad to see my colleagues and I felt they were glad to see me. I could feel myself beginning to get panicked. I tried to steady myself by going back to the computer which was still open with my search on Pulse for the incident in relation to the file. [The senior officer] came right over beside me where I was sitting.

“He was to the right of me. He placed both his hands on the bottom edge of the table and leaned over it. He said nothing and I was afraid to move. His left forearm was right up against my right upper arm. I was using the mouse of the computer with my right hand. I could feel his left arm make contact with my body and this made me freeze. I couldn’t believe that he was touching against me.

I could feel my heart pounding and could hear it in my ears. I was truly frightened and felt nauseous. I could see peripherally that the senior officer was examining what I was doing on the Pulse computer. He did not move from the position he was standing in. I tried to ignore him. It was humiliating to me. If I were to turn to the right, his face would have been approximately 12 inches from my face and at the same level.

The garda remains on stress leave having signed off on in early 2016 – in that time her protected disclosure has remained processing by Garda HQ and nothing has happened since.

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.

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