Gardaí suspended on suspicion of misconduct almost triples

Twenty-one members of force sidelined last year – up from nine in 2017, figures indicate

The appointment of Commissioner Drew Harris in September last year has been associated with an increased focus on discipline within the force. File photograph: Frank Miller

The appointment of Commissioner Drew Harris in September last year has been associated with an increased focus on discipline within the force. File photograph: Frank Miller

 

The number of gardaí suspended on suspicion of serious misconduct has almost tripled since 2016, according to figures from the Garda.

Twenty-one members were suspended last year pending criminal investigations or internal disciplinary inquiries, up from nine in 2017 and eight in 2016. Six officers have been suspended in the first four months of this year, according to figures released by the Garda under the Freedom of Information Act.

The figures detail only long-term suspensions of gardaí being investigated by the discipline section of the Garda internal affairs department. They do not include suspensions relating to minor disciplinary matters which are handled at a local level.

The appointment of Commissioner Drew Harris in September last year has been associated with an increased focus on discipline within the force.

Announcing the establishment of a dedicated anti-corruption unit earlier this month, Mr Harris said corruption and misconduct posed a threat to the integrity of the Garda.

Inappropriate associations

“They could be things like drugs, inappropriate associations with criminal gangs and inappropriate behaviour towards vulnerable victims, towards vulnerable females in particular.

“There is no room for those in the organisation who would behave in such a way which is either crime or well outside the standards of behaviour that I, and the public, expect of members of An Garda Síochána. ”

The commissioner has also recently blocked several approved promotions because disciplinary matters into some of the candidates were still outstanding.

There have been several high-profile suspensions and investigations since Mr Harris’s appointment.

Last October, former superintendent David Taylor was suspended following the publication of the report of the Disclosures Tribunal which found he had helped to smear Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe and had lied to the tribunal.

Mr Taylor was allowed to retire on a full pension before an internal Garda investigation could be concluded.

Also in October, Mr Harris was granted permission by Minister for Justice to suspend one of the most senior civilian members of the force, head of human resources John Barrett. He remains suspended while an inquiry continues into issues surrounding his dealings with another senior garda.

The Garda said Mr Barrett’s suspension related to an “internal employment matter”.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Fintan Fanning was briefly suspended by Mr Harris last January following a complaint by another member of the force.

Mr Fanning has since returned to duty after being informed by the Garda Ombudsman that the case against him had been dropped. No findings of misconduct or corruption were made against him.

Inquiry

Three gardaí in Limerick, including a superintendent and an inspector suspected of involvement with organised criminals, were suspended last month pending a criminal inquiry by the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI).

NBCI is a standalone unit staffed by highly skilled investigators. Its main role is investigating organised crime but since his appointment, Mr Harris has shown a preference for also deploying the NBCI to investigate Garda members suspected of corruption or misconduct.

According to the latest available figures, there are currently 45 gardaí (36 male and seven female) suspended for both serious and minor matters, a figure which increased almost every month since Mr Harris took office in September when 34 members stood suspended.

Gardaí found to have committed a serious breach of discipline can be dismissed or demoted. More minor breaches are dealt with through fines, reductions in pay and cautions.

Last month, Mr Harris demanded that a garda who was filmed having sex with a woman on the bonnet of a patrol car either resign or face dismissal.

An internal review into the garda’s actions recommended he receive a large fine but Mr Harris rejected this punishment as too mild.