Garda Commissioner decision to be quashed by High Court

Judge finds ‘number of procedural flaws’ in Drew Harris’s dealing of case of probationer garda

Mr Justice Max Barrett  said Probationer Garda Murphy was not provided with a copy of the materials upon which the commissioner intended to base his decision. File photograph

Mr Justice Max Barrett said Probationer Garda Murphy was not provided with a copy of the materials upon which the commissioner intended to base his decision. File photograph

 

A decision by the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, to “dispense with the services” of a probationer Garda is to be quashed by the High Court in part because of the commissioner impinging on the recruit’s presumption of innocence.

Mr Justice Max Barrett found there were “a number of procedural flaws” in the way in which the commissioner had dealt with the case of Probationer Garda Thomas Murphy.

He said Probationer Garda Murphy was not provided with a copy of the materials upon which the commissioner intended to base his decision, and that the manner in which the commissioner proposed to proceed “impinged on the presumption of innocence enjoyed by Mr Murphy in criminal proceedings against him and arising from the same alleged events that grounded the proposal to dispense with his services”.

In the early hours of New Years’ Day 2019, Probationer Garda Murphy, then 20 years of age, came to the attention of fellow gardaí while “out on the town”, the judge noted.

As a consequence of his interactions with certain of those gardaí, Probationer Garda Murphy was later charged with a public order offence and under the Road Traffic Acts. In December 2019, he was served with a notice that the commissioner intended to dispenses with his services.

Last September, Probationer Garda Murphy was “regrettably” convicted under the Road Traffic Act, Mr Justice Barrett noted, fined €400, and disqualified from driving for three years.

The judge said Probationer Garda Murphy was constrained from dealing with Mr Harris on the issue pending the completion of the criminal proceedings. The probationary Garda is appealing his conviction so the issue “has not yet reached a full and final conclusion,” he added.

“In truth, the commissioner [or those around him tasked with getting matters right] appears essentially to have ignored the fact that Probationer Garda Murphy was at the time of the notice engaged in a criminal process and sought of him that he commit to paper what amounted to the defence that he would raise in those criminal proceedings.”

The judgment was delivered earlier this month but only uploaded on the website of the Courts Service last week.