Garda wins challenge aimed at preventing his dismissal from force
Detective was told he would be dismissed over charge of making a false report
A detective who suffers post-traumatic stress disorder following threats made against him and his family by criminals has won his High Court action aimed at preventing his dismissal from An Garda Síochána.
Detective Garda Aidan Bracken was informed earlier this year it was proposed to summarily dismiss him over his admission before a Circuit Criminal Court of a charge of making a false report.
He challenged that decision in High Court proceedings. In his judgement on Friday, Mr Justice Charles Meenan said he was satisfied to quash the Garda Commissioner’s decision that Garda Bracken be dismissed. The judge said the Commissioner has a power, under the Garda Disciplinary Regulations, to summarily dismiss a member.
That power, the judge said, should only be “done sparingly” and “only in circumstances where the facts are entirely clear to the point that the holding of an inquiry would be pointless”.
The judge was satisfied that this was not the case regarding Detective Bracken, and he was entitled to an order quashing the dismissal decision.
John Kennedy SC, with Rory Kennedy BL, instructed by solicitor Eoin Powderly, had argued the Commissioner’s decision was unlawful. The proceedings were brought after the Commissioner informed the Detective, subject to the consent of the policing authority, it was proposed to summarily dismiss him because he was unfit for retention in the force. The detective, a 20-year veteran, has not worked for five years due to psychiatric injuries sustained while on duty.
The court heard that Detective Bracken, stationed in Carbury, Co Kildare, was previously charged with making a false report and had in 2019 pleaded guilty to the criminal offence before Wicklow Circuit Court. He accepted he made a false report concerning threats he claimed were made against himself, his family and his colleagues.
At the time, the Detective, who had been informed by his superiors his life was at risk, had been suffering from serious mental health issues, including paranoia, stress and PTSD due to other serious threats he had received from violent criminal gang members. He claimed the Circuit Court judge hearing that case had determined, given the extenuating circumstances, no punishment was warranted and dismissed the charges under the Probation Act. Arising from that, the Commissioner, citing Regulation 39 of the 2007 Garda Discipline Regulations, informed him he was to be dismissed.
The Detective claimed no conviction was recorded against him by the Circuit Court. Regulation 39 can only be used when the Commissioner is absolutely certain a member had engaged in serious breach of discipline but the Commissioner could not impose such a draconian measure against Detective Bracken where there was, at the very least, a doubt over the Circuit Court’s ruling, it was claimed.
Lawyers for the Commissioner argued the Detective’s action was premature and had been taken before the process under the relevant Garda regulation had been completed.
It was also argued the Detective had pleaded guilty to a criminal charge before the Circuit Court and was not entitled to any order quashing the decision he should be dismissed.
Mr Justice Meenan said it appeared that the detective did not receive a conviction from the Circuit Court. If the Commissioner was to rely on the Circuit Court’s order, an application should have been made to clarify the terms of that order but that was not done, he said. Mr Justice Meenan also did not accept the Garda’s action was premature. The Commissioner had repeatedly ignored correspondence about the process from the Garda’s lawyers which could only lead to the conclusion the process had been completed, he said.