Garda delay over complaint breached rights

Commissioner consents to High Court declaration on two-year inquiry delay

Stephen McNamee complained in June 2011 to the Garda Síochána Complaints Commission

Stephen McNamee complained in June 2011 to the Garda Síochána Complaints Commission

Wed, Feb 12, 2014, 01:00

The Garda Commissioner yesterday consented to a High Court declaration that a delay of more than two years in investigating a council worker’s complaint against a Garda breached the man’s rights to fair procedures and a prompt decision on his complaint. 

Stephen McNamee complained in June 2011 to the Garda Síochána Complaints Commission (GSOC), which notified his solicitor eight weeks later the complaint had been referred to the Garda Commissioner for investigation by a senior garda, in accordance with an agreed protocol.

In August 2013, after considerable correspondence by his solicitor Gareth Noble, a decision on the complaint was notified to Mr McNamee, who argued that period was well outside the recommended 12 weeks for conclusion of such investigations.

The notification was made shortly after Mr McNamee began High Court proceedings against GSOC and the commissioner alleging the delay deciding his complaint breached his rights under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr McNamee, with an address in Kildare town,  alleged delay by the commissioner in having the matter investigated and delay by GSOC on grounds including alleged failure to supervise and monitor the investigation and failure to take over the investigation.

Right to fair procedures
When proceedings came before Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill yesterday, he was told the commissioner was consenting to a declaration that the delay by the respondents, or either of them, investigating the complaint breached Mr McNamee’s constitutionally protected right to fair procedures and/or constitutionally guaranteed right to a prompt decision on his complaint.

Niall Nolan, for Mr McNamee, said his side was maintaining its case against GSOC.

The judge made the declaration as consented to by the commissioner and excused the commissioner from involvement in the case until costs issues are being addressed.  The case against GSOC was adjourned for mention in two weeks.

Mr McNamee, an employee of Dublin City Council working in a hostel for the homeless, made his complaint arising from a discussion between him and a garda on a public street after which the garda made a report to his employer.

Reputation and livelihood
Mr McNamee complained it was not acceptable to make a report as he was not purporting to represent his employer. He complained the report appeared intended to damage his reputation and livelihood.

The August 2013 decision on the complaint found no disciplinary issues arose.

In an affidavit, Mr Noble said he wrote to GSOC on June 16th, 2011, setting out the complaint and got a receipt the following day. On July 12th, 2011, GSOC wrote stating the complaint was being forwarded to the Garda Commissioner for investigation by a Garda Síochána investigating officer (GSIO). In August 2011, GSOC told him a GSIO had been appointed but he heard nothing further until GSOC wrote in November 2011 stating there may be a delay in completing the report.

In August 2012, he was told the delay was outside the control of GSOC and the Commissioner but no details were given, Mr Noble said. He was later told GSOC had contacted the Garda Síochána 11 times about the progress of the investigation into the complaint but was not provided with “meaningful reasons” for the delay.

In June 2013, a legal adviser for GSOC told him the garda who was the subject of the complaint was being interviewed that month, almost two years after his client had made his complaint.