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Defence Forces review serving personnel with convictions for gender-based violence

Several personnel remain in organisation after being found guilty of assaults and other offences

Public anger over the case of Cathal Crotty (above) has led generals to try to determine how many serving Defence Forces personnel have convictions for gender-based violence

Defence Forces generals have held a high-level meeting to determine the number of serving personnel with convictions for gender-based violence.

The hastily organised meeting was convened amid growing public anger over the case of Cathal Crotty, a serving soldier who was spared jail last week after beating a woman unconscious.

Already, military management has identified several additional cases involving Defence Forces personnel who were allowed remain in the organisation after being found guilty of assaults and other offences.

In one case, detailed in Monday’s Irish Times, a naval noncommissioned officer remains in his role almost a year after pleading guilty to a violent attack on a former girlfriend that left one of her eyes permanently displaced.


A senior officer has now been appointed to examine why the sailor was not discharged upon conviction.

On Sunday, Defence Forces Chief of Staff Lieut Gen Seán Clancy held a meeting with senior generals to discuss the number of serving members found guilty in the civilian courts of violent offences.

The generals ordered a list be prepared urgently, detailing all cases of soldiers with convictions in the civilian courts and all soldiers with civilian charges pending, military sources said.

Under Defence Forces Regulation A10, a soldier is automatically dismissed from service if sentenced to a prison term by the civilian courts.

However, if a soldier receives a fine or suspended sentence, military authorities have discretion over whether to discharge them or not.

The flurry of activity at Defence Forces headquarters comes amid growing public disquiet over the case of Crotty (22), who beat a woman unconscious in a random street attack, and boasted about it on social media.

Judge Tom O’Donnell, who retires this week, said Crotty’s actions were “utterly appalling” but opted not to impose a jail term last week after hearing it would affect the soldier’s career.

Instead, Crotty was ordered to pay €3,000 compensation to his victim, Natasha O’Brien. A number of protests were held at the weekend against the leniency of the sentence and in support of Ms O’Brien.

Military sources said they are expediting the process of discharging Crotty and that he may be dismissed from service as soon as next week. However, this process may be delayed if the Director of Public Prosecutions opts to appeal the suspended sentence on the basis of undue leniency.

Much of the public disquiet regarding the Crotty case concerns evidence given by the soldier’s commanding officer, Cmdt Paul Togher, who told the court Crotty was an “exemplary”, “courteous” and “disciplined” soldier.

On Monday, the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (Raco) criticised social media commentary around the officer’s attendance at the hearing “by those not in possession of the necessary context or information”.

It said Cmdt Togher has been “vilified” on social media despite being required to be present at the case under military regulations. He was not fulfilling the role of “character witness”, Raco said.

The association said it is “perhaps time” for the military authorities to review the rule requiring commanding officers to attend civilian trials of serving members, “particularly in the age of social media”.

The latest controversy comes at a fraught time for the Defence Forces. On Monday, a tribunal of inquiry responsible for examining the complaints process relating to abuse in the military held its first hearing.

The judge-led tribunal, which is expected to last up to three years, was established following allegations of widespread sexual abuse, discrimination and harassment in the Defence Forces by a group of veterans known as the Women of Honour.

Speaking outside the tribunal’s first sitting, Women of Honour spokeswoman Diane Byrne said the Crotty case is “not surprising”.

“We need to figure out what’s going on and why people think they can go out and do this,” she said.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times