Twenty six gardaí serving suspensions for domestic violence or sexual misconduct allegations

Management issued noticewarning gardaí against abusing power for sexual gain

More than a quarter of the 98 gardaí currently serving suspensions are being investigated for domestic violence or sexual misconduct, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has confirmed.

The figures were disclosed at an appearance of senior Garda management before the Policing Authority where they were asked about the prevalence of gardaí entering into inappropriate relationships with vulnerable victims of crime.

Mr Harris said the Garda takes the issue very seriously as there is an imbalance of power between gardaí and victims. A notice was sent to all gardaí last month reminding them that abuse of power for sexual gain would be regarded as a serious breach of discipline and would result in disciplinary action including possible dismissal.

Such cases are corrosive to trust in the Garda and may make victims reluctant to report crimes, he said.

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) is also carrying out several investigations into such activity, Mr Harris said.

Assistant Commissioner Pat Clavin said 16 gardaí are under suspension for alleged sexual related misconduct and another 10 are suspended over domestic violence allegations. Most of the allegations are contemporary, he said.

According to the most recent figures, there are 98 gardaí currently serving suspensions.

Mr Clavin said the Garda’s new Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) is proactively examining suspicions of inappropriate relationships, as “sometimes you won’t get a complaint, sometimes it will appear to be consensual.”

He said some investigations were launched after other gardaí come forward with concerns about their colleagues’ behaviour.

The Commissioner said more and more gardaí are making reports directly to the ACU and are making complaints on the record rather than anonymously.

The Policing Authority was told that Garda drug testing is expected to come in force in September. All new recruits will be tested and five per cent of serving members of all ranks will be tested every year.

Failing a test will result in serious disciplinary action, including potential dismissal, while refusing to take a test will result in similarly serious sanctions, the authority was told.

Mr Clavin also confirmed the ACU is seeking the legal power to launch “simulated corruption opportunities” which are sting operations intended to detect corrupt behaviour by gardaí.

Mr Harris said he “entirely accepts the seriousness of the deficit in our relationship with the Traveller Community” following a report by University of Limerick researchers. The report found half of respondents said they have been present when gardaí entered a home without permission while 59 per cent said felt they had been stopped by gardaí in the last five years on account of their ethnicity.

Mr Harris said the Garda is examining the study and it will be considered by its human rights committee. A series of informational videos detailing garda powers are also to be published soon, he said. However, he said he could not accept all of the reports findings without first examining them in detail.

Members of the Policing Authority also raised the “huge number of referrals” from Gsoc in relation to gardaí being rude to members of the public.

Mr Harris said he knows this is a “theme” of complaints about gardaí but he does not believe the organisation is “overwhelmed with rude people”.

Being civil to the public is “absolutely integral” to successful policing, Mr Harris said. He said he has “regrettably encountered rudeness in recent weeks.

“I think I spoke to the person in the appropriate manner so they could see how vexed I was with the situation.”

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times