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Shatter: 'I was secretly put on trial, and wasn't given a chance to defend myself'

The former Minister for Justice has blasted the Guerin report for ‘completely failing to follow fair procedure’.

Updated 5.17pm

Source: Hugh O'Connell/YouTube

THE FORMER MINISTER for Justice has blasted Senior Counsel Sean Guerin for failing to adhere to procedures when compiling his report on allegations of garda misconduct.

Alan Shatter said this is “of far greater general importance than any impact on me personally”, describing the approach taken as “unprecedented”.

The report led to Shatter’s resignation from Cabinet, however he likened the inquiry to a ‘kangaroo court’ as it “completely failed to observe fair procedures in accordance with constitutional and natural justice”.

[This] places in peril a value system crucial to the well-being of all our citizens.

He dismissed the report’s findings that he had not paid “sufficient heed” to allegations made by garda whisteblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Speaking today in the Dáil, Shatter said that he is “entitled” to an explanation as to why Guerin failed to interview him, and why “a single question [was not] put to me or to Justice officials”.

He said the report is littered with “omissions and inaccuracies”, which could have been cleared up if Guerin had spoken to the former Minister for Justice.

However, Shatter accused Guerin of ‘simply choosing not to’ speak with anyone whose reputation may have been affected by the report. The former Minister for Justice said the Senior Counsel “knew” the report’s publication would have forced his resignation.

Garda Whistleblowers at Committees Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

The conversation would have also revealed, Shatter said, that he had paid “substantial attention” to allegations made by McCabe, and that he had not accepted the views of the Garda Commissioner “without question”.

Seán Guerin had explained in the report that the Minister had a statutory responsibility to act once Maurice McCabe had brought his complaints to the Confidential Recipient, but accused him of not taking any action.

Guerin also said that in the absence of any documentary evidence, it appears that Alan Shatter did what he did on foot of advice from then-Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, without the advice being questioned or analysed.

Shatter said:

I believe all of us should be entitled to know that we cannot, by way of any form of inquiry or review or other means, be secretly put on trial have charges levied against us of which we have no knowledge, be prosecuted without being informed of the evidence, and convicted without being given the opportunity to speak or defend ourselves.

Booklets of allegations

Shatter has accused Guerin of misreading a letter attached to three booklets of allegations made by McCabe that had been submitted to the Department of Justice.

The report says that the letter advised that the booklets be forwarded to Shatter straight away, but that he had failed to act.

“Mr Guerin has misquoted the letter which actually advised that the two files concerned be furnished by Justice officials to the Garda Commissioner and that no copies of the documents be retained in the Department of Justice,” he said.

“It makes no reference whatsoever to them being furnished to me.”

“Rushed to judgement”

Shatter said he was “very puzzled as to why Sean Guerin did not take the additional time necessary to properly complete his work and why he rushed to judgement”.

He compared the time frame in which the report was put together to the Cooke Report, which had a much more narrow scope but a longer time frame.

“[Guerin's] Terms of Reference allowed him all the time he needed to properly complete his work. What was his hurry?” Shatter asked.

He explained although a time-limit of eight weeks had been set, Guerin could have published the report “as soon as maybe thereafter” this deadline. Cooke used this mechanism, citing the time taken to analyse correspondence between GSOC and Verrimus.

Shatter staunchly criticised Guerin for failing to review crucial documents, with, what the Senior Counsel describe himself as, “the care required”.

“Failure”

“With regard to GSOC, Mr Guerin partially explains his failure by attempting to minimise the importance of GSOC’s role and recounts that it became involved in a small number of the cases he reviewed,” he said.

“This assertion is disingenuous,” Shatter said.

For example, GSOC was central to determining complaints of Garda misconduct with regard to serious offences committed by Jerry McGrath, one of which involved an alleged catastrophic Garda failure which, if it had not occurred, may have resulted in McGrath being held in custody on the tragic day in December 2007 when he murdered Sylvia Roche Kelly.

The former Minister for Justice welcomed the findings of the Cooke report, but said that it raises “genuine concerns” whether GSOC has the capacity to carry out its statutory obligations.

On GSOC’s failure to provide a statutory report on the alleged bugging until four days after the publication of the information in the Sunday Times, Shatter said this delay was as “the finding of ‘nothing’ in the public interest investigation was an embarrassment”.

He described as “disturbing” that when GSOC appeared before an Oireachtas committee, “the GSOC Commissioners were so imprecise and unclear in their presentation as to fuel speculation that my first statement to the Dail was inaccurate in circumstances in which it was entirely based on their verbal and written briefing”.

“No effective steps were taken by them to correct that perception,” he noted.

Guerin recommended in his report that the allegations made by McCabe should now be the subject of a statutory inquiry.

Shatter concluded his speech by outlining four areas he believes should be examined:

  • All cases dealt with in Bailieboro Garda Station which have given rise to complaint
  • Shatter’s reaction to issues surrounding penalty points, as there is a clear connection to this and whether he took heed of McCabe’s complaints
  • All of McCabe’s conversations and dealings with the Confidential Receipt
  • The 19 hours of conversation between Guerin and McCabe. Shatter added that this should be made public.

Originally published 3.57pm

Read: So what was in the chapters of the Guerin Report that led to Alan Shatter resigning? >

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Nicky Ryan

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