Big rise in compensation payments for damage caused by gardaí

Figures show more than €200,000 recently paid out due to property damage in raids

More than €200,000 in compensation has been paid out to property owners who have been the subject of garda raids in recent years.

The money was paid out to people whose homes or businesses were damaged during raids. Typically compensation claims included claims for doors or windows that were damaged by gardaí gaining entry to a property, sources said.

The yearly amount paid out in compensation increased dramatically after 2015 as gardaí stepped up armed raids on suspected criminals in response to the Hutch-Kinahan feud and other criminal activity.

The increase in compensation payouts also coincided with the increased use of Armed Support Units (ASU) and the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) in searches.

In circumstances where gardaí believe the suspect might pose a danger, these units will often make forced entries, including, in some cases, by smashing in doors or pulling windows out using vehicles.

In 2020, the ASU supported gardaí in carrying out 177 searches while the ERU conducted 36 “high-risk searches”.

Requests for figures through Freedom of Information Act requests were denied by the Garda and the State Claims Agency (SCA). However, the SCA made them available to Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy in response to a parliamentary question.

A total of €217,790 was paid out in compensation between 2015 and September 2021.

Evidence

The bulk of this, €158,685, was paid out by the SCA. Garda Headquarters handled more minor compensation claims, amounting to €59,005.

“In some instances reasonable force may be required to secure evidence and effect arrests of persons resulting in damage to property,” a Garda spokesman said.

In the case of minor compensation claims, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris assesses them on a case-by-case basis before making a decision as to whether to pay out or not, the Garda said.

“All planned searches conducted by [gardaí] are carried out under warrant and fully risk assessed in keeping with best policing practices under An Garda Síochána’s decision-making model.”

The amount of compensation paid out in these cases more than doubled between 2015 and 2016 (from €12,000 to €30,000) and has remained around that level in every year since. In the first eight months of last year €35,000 was paid out.

Separately, in recent years the Garda has faced several costly court actions for raids conducted on the wrong address.

In 2016, the High Court awarded a total of €82,000 to various home owners after the ASU raided three incorrect addresses in East Wall, Dublin, while searching for a dangerous suspect.

In 2019, the Garda settled a case with a solicitor who was the victim of a raid on the wrong house on Capel Street, Dublin, by armed officers searching for a cannabis-growing operation.

“I had no idea if I was going to be killed and had no idea they were gardaí,” the victim told the High Court.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times