Shatter seeks to reassure victims


Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has sought to reassure victims of sexual abuse that their cases would be fully investigated by An Garda Síochána following allegations of misconduct by senior officers.

This follows allegations that a Garda sergeant and two colleagues joked about threatening to deport and rape one of two women who had been arrested at a protest at the Corrib gas project.

The gardaí were inadvertently recorded on a video camera that was confiscated from the activists and which had been left recording in the back of a patrol car.

“I want to assure anyone who is a victim of a sexual offence or rape that they will get a full and proper considered approach from the Garda Síochána,” Mr Shatter said today.

“They [victims] should not have any doubt about that, that if they are a victim of any sexual offence, it will be fully and properly investigated,” he said.

However, speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme today, Mr Shatter, said he did not want to “prejudge” the outcome of either of the two investigations into the matter.

“It is of huge importance that in all circumstances in which members of the Garda Síochána are interacting with the general community, that they’re considered in the approach they take and respectful of all individuals with whom they’re in communication or with whom they’re dealing,” he said.

Two investigations into the conduct of gardaí associated with controversy are under way. Five people have been questioned so far.

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission said yesterday it had initiated an inquiry “in the public interest” into “reported Garda conduct”.

A separate investigation is being conducted by a senior member of the force to establish the facts and report on the matter.

However, one of the two women who is due to meet Garda ombudsman staff tomorrow to lodge a formal complaint said she believes it is inappropriate for the force to be investigating its own officers.

Supt James Smith of the Association of Garda Superintendents said the incident was not reflective of what generally takes place in the organisation.

He said officers investigated murder, rape and other sexual crimes in a sensitive and compassionate manner and attempted to be as comforting as possible to those affected.

One of the women referred to in the tape, who asked to remain anonymous, told RTÉ Radio that she believed the Department of Justice had a responsibility to look into the issue of wider policing.

She said the reassurances she and the other women involved in the incident had received to date were “ridiculous”.

She said the comments were extremely serious and disturbing for victims, women and campaigners. They offered a glimpse of the intimidation and violence people have experienced for years, she added.

Mr Shatter said he had an “open mind” on whether to ask the Garda Ombudsman Commission to examine the issue of policing in relation to the controversial Mayo project.

"There have been enormous difficulties in that area. The gardaí have had substantial policing difficulties in dealing with it."

Mr Shatter said there had been several decisions by the planning authorities and by the courts in relation to Shell’s development and he believed it was in the national interest to allow the development proceed.

“I think that it is unacceptable that a small group can, effectively, obstruct or create unnecessary difficulty in the lawful development such as is taking place down there and in bringing ashore potential natural resources that can be to the economic benefit of this State.”

However, he said policing matters must be dealt with fully and correctly, “and not give rise to any cause for concern”.