Garda whistleblower loses challenge to disciplinary proceedings

John Wilson attended, while off-duty, district court proceedings in Cavan

Garda whistleblower John Wilson who has lost his  High Court claim that he should not have been subject to disciplinary proceedings arising from his attendance, while off-duty, at district court proceedings in Cavan. Photo: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Garda whistleblower John Wilson who has lost his High Court claim that he should not have been subject to disciplinary proceedings arising from his attendance, while off-duty, at district court proceedings in Cavan. Photo: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Fri, Apr 11, 2014, 14:00

One of the whistleblowers in the Garda penalty points controversy has lost his High Court claim that he should not have been subject to disciplinary proceedings arising from his attendance, while off-duty, at district court proceedings in Cavan.

In her judgment, Ms Justice O’Malley said the court had been told events in this case did not relate to John Wilson’s departure from the Garda.

John Wilson, with an address in Cavan town, had challenged findings of May 2012 that he acted in breach of Garda discipline in refusing to say why he attended a January 2012 special sitting of Virgina District Court in Cavan courthouse.

That case involved a long-running dispute between neighbours, dating from 2005, in which there were some 90 complaints to gardaí and “numerous” investigations and files sent to the DPP, Ms Justice O’Malley noted.

Garda Chief Superintendent James Sheridan had said he was very concerned Mr Wilson’s presence, while off-duty, could give rise to an apprehension of lack of impartiality on the part of the force with regard to that case.

Mr Wilson, who retired from the Garda last year having joined in 1982, challenged findings that he, in neglect of duty, failed to promptly reply to the Divisional Officer of the Cavan/Monaghan division concerning correspondence dated January 31st, 2012 and March 6th 2012.

Sanctions of “advice” and a “warning” were imposed on foot of those, the lowest and third lowest level of sanctions under the disciplinary regulations.

The January 31st, 2012 letter asked him to explain why he was at Cavan courthouse on January 12th, 2012 in the presence of Walter and Genevieve Smith.

On March 6th, 2012, he was directed to comply with the January 31st direction.

The Smiths were among four people from both sides of the neighbours’ dispute who were charged with harassment.

The District Judge dismissed all charges, with voluntary undertakings given by all the accused and the spouse of one of them, Ms Justice O’Malley noted.

In her judgment dismissing Mr Wilson’s challenge, Ms Justice O’Malley said the attendance of a serving garda, even if off duty, in a public court at the hearing of a prosecution is not something that is, on the face of it, private.

The administration of justice in criminal cases is, for the most part, a public matter, she added.

In that context, it was not unlawful to ask garda Wilson the question: “What were you doing there?” and the Garda authorities had a right to an answer, the extent of which would vary according to circumstances.