Garda detained on suspicion of serious sexual assault

Wed, Dec 12, 2012, 00:00

A Garda based in the midlands has become the first member of the force to be arrested by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, following his detention yesterday on suspicion of a serious sexual assault.

The suspect went by arrangement to Loughrea Garda station in Co Galway and was arrested by investigators from the commission yesterday morning.

He was held under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, allowing for his detention for up to 24 hours without charge.

However, after he was held for an initial six-hour period, his detention was extended by a further six hours and he was released without charge last night. A file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The man is being investigated after a woman alleged he had raped her just over a year ago.

The suspect is a rank-and-file member of the force and was officially suspended from duty by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan following his arrest yesterday.

The commission has been investigating the case since the complaint was made to it by the victim. It has interviewed the complainant and gathered other evidence.

A spokesman for the commission yesterday confirmed a garda had been arrested as part of a criminal investigation. He declined to comment further.

The suspect was among a number of gardaí working on an investigation into prostitution. During the course of that inquiry suspected brothels were raided.

The allegation now under investigation is that the garda went to one of the properties when off duty and committed the alleged rape offence.

While commission members have all the powers of a garda, the power of arrest has not been used by its members since it began operations almost six years ago.

Garda members who have been investigated for serious offences have always met with commission investigators by appointment and been interviewed under caution.

However, The Irish Times understands the serious nature of the offence in the latest investigation led to the decision by the commission to arrest him.

While the suspect was not working at the time of the alleged offence, the commission was established to investigate all complaints made against members of the force relating to their activities while on duty and off duty.

The commission has its own investigators, who are effectively civilian detectives with all the power of a garda. As well as having the power to arrest gardaí, they can also conduct searches under warrant, seize items of evidential value and declare an area a crime scene.

They can search the homes of gardaí and can search and seize their private vehicles. They have in the past carried out surprise raids on Garda stations and sealed them off from members based there until their searches were complete.