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GSOC complaints: Uniformed garda 'smelt of alcohol' and draped arms around two women in pub

GSOC’s annual report was published today.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Mark Stedman/RollingNews.ie

A GARDA SMELLING of alcohol on the job, a garda who forgot to record the case of a stolen car and a hit-and-run case where failures led to the case being thrown out are just some cases highlighted in the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission’s (GSOC) annual report for 2017.

GSOC said that it received 1,949 complaints last year, which was up 10% on 2016. In all, 4,459 separate allegations were recorded in these complaints.

The commission said it had received 24 referrals from An Garda Síochána where it appeared “the conduct of a member of the [gardaí] may have resulted in the death of, or serious harm to, a person”. Seven of these instances referred to the death of somebody.

A large proportion of the allegations resulted in a discontinuation in the investigation (2,036 allegations), no breach of the rules found (449) or an allegation being withdrawn (270).

In cases of discontinuation, GSOC said it was often the case that no independent witness could verify either version of events, or the complaint was deemed to be frivolous or vexatious.

In 66 cases, however, a breach of discipline regulations was identified and a sanction applied.

In all, 16 files were referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions, which resulted in 10 directions for prosecution. A total of 422 criminal investigations were also opened.

Case studies

One case highlighted in the report was that of a woman who complained to GSOC about the behaviour of a uniformed garda she encountered in a pub.

The report said: “She said the garda had approached her and her two female friends, and had made some remarks which she took to be a comment on her hair. She said the garda sat between herself and one of her friends, placed his garda hat on her head and draped his arms around the shoulders of the two women while a friend took photographs.

The woman said she was uncomfortable with where the garda had placed his hand; she also said that another person in the pub had commented that he had seen the garda drinking alcohol earlier in the day.

A superintendent and GSOC investigator looked into the matter and found that a sergeant had seen the garda in question eating in the smoking area of the pub that evening and had told him to have his meal back at the station.

The pair then walked back to the station, and the sergeant noticed the garda “smelt of alcohol”.

The garda accepted he had breached discipline and embarrassed himself and the gardaí. He apologised to the woman who had complained and a financial sanction was imposed.

In another case, a car that gardaí had been chasing crashed, resulting in a referral to GSOC. The vehicle had been pursued because it failed to stop when it was signalled to do so.

The driver – in an attempt to confuse gardaí about who was driving – attempted to swap clothes with a passenger but crashed while doing so.

The two occupants of the car required medical treatment after the crash. The GSOC investigation found that there was no contact between the garda vehicle and the other car and that the gardaí involved had not breached discipline in any way.

In another case, GSOC found that excessive force may have been used on a man who was struck twice with a garda baton during a “heated public protest”. While no prosecution was directed, the garda was found to have abused his authority and was sanctioned.

Big year for GSOC

In the report, GSOC said that a number of notable events marked 2017.

This included the sanctioning of staff for a protected disclosures unit, after it had made the case to the Department of Justice for its necessity.

It had sought 12 staff. Five were authorised, but none had taken up their roles by the end of 2017.

An investigation was also commenced into the alleged mismanagement of funds allocated for policing projects and financial irregularities at Templemore Garda College.

GSOC added that it continues to engage with the department on the recruitment of additional staff.

You can read the full report here.

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Sean Murray

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