Garda whistleblower claims disciplinary inquiry ‘malicious’

Keith Harrison accused of assaulting and harassing his partner

Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison claims he was bullied by colleagues after arresting a garda for drink driving.

Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison claims he was bullied by colleagues after arresting a garda for drink driving.

 

Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison has brought a legal challenge aimed at stopping internal disciplinary proceedings against him.

He is accused of assaulting and harassing his partner and allegedly accessing details of her car on the Garda Pulse system.

Gda Harrison argues the disciplinary inquiry is “malicious” and claims he has been subject to bullying and harassment in his work. Complaints that he and his partner were subject to surveillance and harassment are being investigated by GSOC, he also claims.

In his proceedings against the Garda Commissioner, Gda Harrison - who is stationed in Co Donegal, having previously served in Athlone and Malahide - wants orders including one prohibiting an investigation into allegations he breached Garda Disciplinary Regulations, plus an allegation of criminal conduct between October 1998 and October 2013.

Gda Harrison, who was awarded the Scott Medal for saving the lives of individuals who went into the River Shannon, claims the appointment on December 1st last of a Garda to investigate the allegations was unlawful and unconstitutional.

Permission to bring the action was granted, on an ex parte basis (one side only represented), by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, who imposed a stay on the disciplinary process pending the outcome of the action and returned the matter to next month.

Seeking leave for judicial review, Mark Harty SC said Gda Harrison denies all the allegations against him and contends the decision to investigate his client was “malicious” and “oppressive”.

When stationed in Athlone, Gda Harrison arrested another Garda on suspicion of drink driving, counsel said. His actions were questioned by his superiors and he was encouraged to cease the prosecution. However, he saw it through to an unsucessful outcome.

Counsel said his client was then subjected to bullying and harassment by colleagues. Prior to arresting his colleague, he had an unblemished record and was never subject of complaint. In the following months, he was subjected to unprecedented managerial review and scrutiny.

He ended up with 16 allegations of breaches of discipline against him and was found in breach of four of them, counsel said. Around this time, he also rekindled a relationship with a woman and transferred to Buncrana, Co Donegal.

Counsel said he had not discussed this relationship with colleagues as her brother was involved in a crash which resulted in the death of a garda.

When the relationship was discovered by other gardaí, he was told by a superior he been underhand and deceitful and showed little or no respect for his colleagues, Gda Harrison claims. He was then transferred to Donegal Town where he was subjected to a hostile environment from his colleagues.

Last year, Gda Harrison said he and his partner got into a domestic row and, after the matter was brought to the attention of gardaí, she was invited to make a statement, which she initially refused to do. After being subjected to various requests by gardaí she eventually made a statement, in which she made no complaint about Gda Harrison, he said.

The woman was later contacted by GSOC about the statement but at no stage had any person told her the statement, which she had retracted, was to be sent to GSOC, counsel said.

Gda Harrison claims he and his partner were subject to Garda surveillance, which he had noted by accessing Pulse records regarding his partner’s car. He complained about the harassment to his superiors, an investigation was set up but was later stopped by the Minister for Justice after it was discovered some of the alleged perpetrators were known to those who were to conduct the investigation.

Gda Harrison made a complaint to the GSOC about his treatment.

On December 1st last, he was informed an investigating officer had been appointed to investigate allegations he verbally and physically abused and threatened to harm his partner during their relationship. It is also alleged he accessed details of his partners vehicle on Pulse on 25 occasions between August 2009 and April 2013 contrary to the Data Protection Act and the Garda Siochana’s Data Protection Code of Practice.

In his action, Garda Harrison claims his partner was unlawfully pressurised into making a statement, Gardaí were not entitled to forward that statement to GSOC and it cannot be used to ground any investigation into the allegations.

He claims the investigation against him is flawed because it relies on data unlawfully accessed and the right of himself and his parter to privacy has been breached.