A Garda member who allegedly left the scene of a road traffic crash, and then allegedly refused to answer the door when investigating gardaí called to his home, was cleared of a criminal charge when the case went to court.
The incident was the subject of an investigation commenced in the public interest by the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) last year. The commission, which investigates allegations of disciplinary or criminal wrongdoing by Garda members, has for the first time set out the details of some of its public interest inquiries in its annual report for last year.
It noted it started an investigation in the public interest after receiving information from the Garda force suggesting “an off-duty Garda member was involved in a road traffic collision and did not remain at the scene, instead driving home”. The account set out by Gsoc further states when other Garda members called to the house of the off-duty garda “he would not answer the door” and it was “suspected that he was under the influence of alcohol”.
When the Gsoc inquiry was concluded, a file was sent to the DPP who directed the Garda member should be charged with “failure to remain at the scene of a road traffic accident”. The trial heard the Garda member, the day after the road traffic crash, took responsibility for it and a sum for material damages was also paid out by his insurer.
Gsoc’s account reveals the presiding judge found the Garda member “had not left the scene to avoid reporting the accident or taking responsibility, but rather to avoid being breathalysed”. The judge “found him not guilty of the charges before the court, but remarked that his handling of the incident was not becoming of a member of An Garda Síochána”.
Another public interest case opened by Gsoc commenced after media reports stated a Garda recruit had been arrested after being found driving while intoxicated. The disciplinary inquiry confirmed the off-duty Garda recruit had been stopped by colleagues in a Garda patrol. However, those gardaí “dropped the Garda recruit home instead of driving him back to the Garda station to be processed”.
Arising from the incident, Gsoc identified seven Garda members who had been “in possible breach of discipline for neglect of duty, bringing discredit upon An Garda Síochána, carrying an unauthorised person in official vehicles and failure to enforce drink driving laws”. At the conclusion of the inquiry, Garda management found four of the members in breach of discipline for neglect of duties, with two sanctioned via a reduction in pay and two others cautioned.
In a third case, a criminal investigation was opened after €13,000 in cash seized during a Garda search of a property went missing in a Garda station. When the cash was later found in a bag in the armoury at the station, the inquiry was closed. However, one Garda member was found in breach of Garda discipline for “neglect of duty” and was sanctioned with a caution from Garda management.
Other public interest cases were opened into allegations excessive force was used – including against minors during so-called joyriding incidents when gardaí rammed a vehicle off the road. In other cases it was alleged Garda members took bribes, engaged in domestic violence or inappropriately accessed people’s personal details on the force’s Pulse database.
In most of the cases, no findings of wrongdoing were arrived at because the complainants’ allegations were not supported by physical evidence or because there was no evidence, such as CCTV or eyewitness accounts. In a small number of cases, when third parties made complaints about Garda members, the alleged victims in the cases would not co-operate with Gsoc or Garda investigators or insisted the alleged wrongdoing never happened.
However, in one case a Garda member was sanctioned with a reduction in pay after alleged “false information” was recorded by them in child defilement case. Gsoc’s account of the case states “the false information related to an inaccurate recording of arrest dates in the Garda member’s notebook”. When the Garda member was unable to “provide any rationale for this accuracy” the court quashed the charges against the man accused of child defilement.
In another case, a complaint was made by a person who alleged their bank card had been used while they were being detained by the Garda after arrest. Accounts were taken from staff in the shop were the fraudulent transactions alleged took place and CCTV was also reviewed. However, none of the facts gathered led to the identification of a perpetrator and because no evidence was found to support the allegations, the case was closed.
Gsoc’s annual report for 2022 also reveals a 17 per cent reduction in the number of complaints received about Garda members, down to 1,826.