Gardaí accused of concealing evidence on baton use
Ombudsman Commission’s allegations latest in a series of critical statements on Garda
Garda Ombudsman Commission chairman Simon O’Brien told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions it was unacceptable that, when asked for evidence, the Garda was querying with the commission why it wanted it. Photograph: Eric Luke
The troubled relationship between the Garda and the independent agency that polices it has deteriorated further, with the Garda Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) accusing the force of concealing vital evidence about students being hit with batons by gardaí at a protest over college fee increases.
Gsoc also said Garda headquarters delayed to such an extent the provision of evidence that the investigation into the scenes witnessed at the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) protest in Dublin on November 3rd, 2010, was compromised.
In a new report on the protest, it said some of the information initially provided by the Garda was “misleading and later proved to be incorrect”.
The serious criticisms follow an appearance three weeks ago by senior officials from Gsoc – including chairman Simon O’Brien – before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions in which the officials criticised the Garda for what they believed were deliberate delays in providing information.
Mr O’Brien also said it was unacceptable that, when asked for evidence, the Garda was querying with Gsoc the reasons why it wanted that evidence.
In relation to the findings, Garda Headquarters said in a statement it did not comment on individual cases.
However, it added Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan had last week met Gsoc chairman Mr O’Brien “with a view to creating greater efficiency between both agencies and ensuring both organisations fulfil their statutory remit”.
As well as the criticism of delays in providing evidence, the Gsoc report expresses concern over non-compliance with regulations stipulating that individual gardaí draw up reports explaining why they had drawn and/or used their batons.
Some gardaí on duty at the USI protest were not wearing their Garda identification number.
Some 24 weeks elapsed before the Garda issued a substantive reply to Gsoc’s initial request for “all statements, reports, notebook entries, CCTV, duty sheets, baton reports and video footage” relating to the November 2010 clashes, despite protocols stipulating such requests should be complied with within 30 days.
When a reply was forthcoming, it was to inquire why Gsoc wanted the material, rather than to provide it.
Gsoc was in July 2011 given five documents and assured that “no reports or statements have been submitted by individual gardaí who were on duty at the time of the protest”.
However, in April 2012 as Gsoc was interviewing gardaí policing the protest it emerged a file to the DPP existed with over 60 reports from gardaí on duty during the day in question.
A copy of that file was received by Gsoc on August 21st, 2012; a year and nine months after the incident. The file also revealed two gardaí had recorded the disturbance on cameras.
The footage was obtained two years after the incident and helped Gsoc identify a number of gardaí on duty.