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Gardaí 'delayed' giving evidence in informant collusion probe

Minister Alan Shatter wants to convene a meeting with the Ombudsman and the Commissioner following an investigation into accusations of collusion between a member of the force and a convicted drug dealer.

Image: Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland

THE MINISTER FOR Justice has expressed his concerns over Garda Ombudsman (GSOC) claims that gardaí delayed its investigation into alleged collusion by members of the force with a known drug dealer.

The Ombudsman said the probe took more than four years to complete because of the difficulties experienced in obtaining evidence from gardaí. Alan Shatter said it does not serve to encourage public confidence for arguments to persist about the timely provision of information.

Fourteen requests for information took between 61 and 120 days to complete, while a number of others were help up for more than a year. Although the Commission eventually received all but one of the documents requested, it considers the level of cooperation “highly unsatisfactory”.

The public interest inquiry was established following accusations that members of An Garda Síochána colluded with Louth convict-turned-informant Kieran Boylan in the movement and supply of controlled drugs. The investigation was completed at the end of last year and the Ombudsman forwarded a file to the DPP who decided not to proceed with charges.

The Commission also decided against pursuing a disciplinary investigation. Details of the probe have not been released.

“It is clearly a matter of concern that it took an inordinate amount of time for this investigation to be concluded and that GSOC attribute the main reason for this long delay to difficulties experienced by the investigation team in obtaining evidence from the Garda Síochána,” Shatter said in a statement this afternoon.

He has asked the Garda Commissioner’s “observations on the findings”.

“Some weeks ago general concerns of GSOC about delays in getting information were brought to my attention. Because of the seriousness with which I took these concerns I arranged to meet with members of GSOC to hear about them at first hand. Following that, the matter has been pursued with the Garda Commissioner.”

GSOC works under statutory powers which the Minister has deemed satisfactory.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said he regretted that the force were not given the findings in advance so its views could be taken into account and that they could “address comprehensively any misunderstandings or issues” that arose. He said he will set out the difficult issues that arose during the sensitive inquiry to the Minister.

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He added that existing protocols for the exchange of information do not work in the interests of either GSOC or the gardaí.

Meanwhile, Shatter published a report which raised a number of issues about the operation of systems for gardaí to deal with informants. “It is of its nature, and in the public interest, that at times police forces must rely on receiving information from people who do not lead unblemished lives,” he explained. “What is important is that appropriate structures and procedures are in place to deal with what is clearly a complex and sensitive area and that prescribed procedures are fully complied with.”

The report, which was published for the first time today “in the public interest”, found that the force complied satisfactorily with such procedures.

Commissioner Callinan noted it was important that identities are protected.

The Ombudsman said it has serious concerns about the practices relating to informant handling procedures – both historic and current.

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