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Four Courts

High Court judge will consider case by four gardaí to end their suspensions next week

The gardaí have taken proceedings in the High Court alleging that their continued suspensions since November 2020 are unlawful.

FOUR GARDAÍ WHO have been suspended since 2020 will learn next week if a judge will allow their suspensions to be lifted while the High Court considers a judicial review of their cases. 

The gardaí have taken proceedings in the High Court alleging that their continued suspensions since November 2020 are unlawful.

The gardaí, who all work in road policing, had been part of a National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI) probe into the alleged cancelling of fixed charge penalty notices or “squaring” by a superintendent.

They are each asking the court to quash the Garda Commissioner’s decisions to suspend them with basic pay, and his later decisions to extend those suspensions. All four deny any wrongdoing.

Ms Justice Niamh Hyland heard this morning from barrister James Kane who was appearing with Hughes Murphy and co solicitors acting for the four gardaí. 

The court heard that counsel for the suspended gardaí was proposing a hearing of 20 July for the application of placing a stay on the suspensions. 

Judge Hyland granted that application and also directed that relevant documents would be furnished to the sides on next Monday. 

Garda Paul Baynham, who was stationed at Henry Street Garda Station in Limerick was granted permission in June to pursue judicial review of the suspension decisions relating to him.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan had directed on that date that the cases of Garda Alan Griffin, Garda Niall Deegan and Garda John Shanahan will run in tandem with Baynham’s.

The gardaí say their personal phones were seized under arrant in October 2019 seized, pursuant to warrants, as part of the NBCI’s investigation.

‘Squaring’

The investigation concerns the alleged “squaring” of fixed charge notices which were not written up, not prosecuted in court or else cancelled on the system.

O’Neill denies all wrongdoing. He faces charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice, which has yet to be heard at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court.

Four other gardaí, who are not those bringing the judicial review actions, are contesting similar charges. All relate to a three-year period leading to September 2019.

The four gardaí bringing the High Court case have said they have at no time been arrested or charged.

They say they were told the NBCI was looking only for evidence connected to Superintendent O’Neill. They claim that they were later interviewed under caution and instructed to hand over their notebooks.

In November 2020, they were each informed, without prior warning, that they were being suspended for “alleged inappropriate interference” in the administration and processing of fixed charge penalty notices over a two-year period from December 2017, the gardaí claim.

Baynham and Deegan also claim that they were accused of “allegedly receiving a ‘gift’ as a reward” for the alleged inappropriate interference.

They further claim that before the suspension no any allegation of wrongdoing was put to them. 

The gardaí before the High Court were interviewed early last year but have not been provided with further details about the allegations against them since then.

Their pleadings state that the garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, has acted outside his powers and in breach of fair procedures. 

The claim is that this is established as the Commissioner had not put allegations to them before being suspended.

They claim the financial loss suffered by each of them is in the region of €10,000 and all allege mental health damage due to how the NBCI and the garda organisation managed the case.  

The gardaí want the court to quash the decisions to suspend them and for the court to declare a regulation used to suspend them as illegal.