Garda wins order over disciplinary proceedings
A GARDA who acted as liaison officer with the family of murdered teenager Raonaid Murray has won a Supreme Court order halting disciplinary proceedings alleging discreditable and insensitive conduct by him in that role.
The proceedings arose from allegations by the Murray family that Garda Ian Gillen drove the dead girl’s sister, Sarah, her cousin and one of Sarah’s friends home from a nightclub at a time when he had consumed a number of pints of beer and also allegedly urinated on a tree at the scene of the killing.
Garda Gillen (50), Kill O’The Grange Garda station, was subject to internal disciplinary proceedings after a complaint from the Murray family about his behaviour was deemed inadmissible by the Garda complaints board in May 2004 on grounds that the complaint was not made within the required six months of the date of the alleged breaches.
The Supreme Court yesterday granted Garda Gillen’s appeal against the High Court’s rejection of his bid to stop the disciplinary proceedings.
Giving the three judge court’s judgment, Mr Justice William McKechnie ruled Garda disciplinary regulations required that any investigation into breaches must be carried out expeditiously and that was not done in this case.
Given the role gardaí play in society, and which the public play in supporting the force, it was critical for all concerned that the mere suggestion of misconduct should be dealt with expeditiously, he said.
Garda Gillen was appointed liaison officer with the Murray family after Raonaid was brutally murdered in a laneway on September 4th, 1999.
Ms Murray (17) died from several stab wounds sustained in an attack near her home at Silchester Park, Glenageary, just before midnight.
She had just left Scott’s pub nearby. Her body was found about 20 minutes later by her older sister, Sarah. No one has ever been charged with her murder.
Nearly six weeks after the murder, and following his appointment as liaison officer, it was alleged Garda Gillen failed to abide by an agreement with the family to take Raonaid’s sister Sarah home from Baker’s Corner pub after the first half of an international rugby match being shown on television there.
It was also alleged he breached Garda discipline by driving Sarah, cousin Audrey Territ and friend Jane Bridgeman, from the pub to the Club Bar in Dalkey having already consumed a number of pints of beer.
It was further alleged that Garda Gillen, in the presence of Ms Bridgeman, urinated on a tree at the scene where the crime allegedly took place.
Garda Gillen denied the alleged breaches of discipline and argued that the delay in bringing the disciplinary proceedings had adversely affected his conditions of employment and promotion.
At the time of the alleged breaches, the Murray family verbally outlined their concerns to gardaí, but did not make a written complaint and reserved their right to make a complaint at a later stage.
They indicated they did not want Garda Gillen to continue as liaison officer and he was removed.
In April 2002, following queries raised by the Murrays, they were told a complaint to the Garda complaints board took precedence over an internal disciplinary inquiry.
After the board in May 2004 decided the complaint from the Murrays was inadmissible, a senior Garda officer was appointed to investigate the alleged breaches.
Mr Justice McKechnie said the reason given by the Garda Commissioner for the delay in bringing disciplinary action was the absence of a written complaint until nearly three years after the incident and because the Murrays reserved their right to make such a written complaint after complaining verbally.
These reasons showed “a fundamental misunderstanding” of the role of the commissioner and his officers under the regulations and total disregard of the rights of Garda Gillen, he said.
The regulations were “entirely oblivious” of how the Garda authorities become aware of a breach. Once a breach was known, a decision must be made whether action should be taken.
While he was not suggesting gardaí had a duty to advise the family they had to make the separate complaint to the Garda Complaints Board within six months, it was surprising that was never apparently raised with the family, he added.
Even after the written complaint was made by the family in November 2002, there were another eight months of inactivity by the commissioner which was also unjustified, he said.
An investigation under the Garda regulations could have been carried out in the immediate aftermath of the October 1999 incident, he said.
While sensitivity was required because of the ongoing murder investigation, an inquiry into Garda Gillen’s conduct could well have been accommodated within the required time.