Garda did not investigate complaint child was sexually abused

Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission 2019 report includes case studies of complaints

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) annual report for 2019 includes case studies of  complaints it investigated last year.  File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) annual report for 2019 includes case studies of complaints it investigated last year. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

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A Garda member failed to investigate a complaint that a child had been groomed and sexually abused and kept no notes from his interactions with the person who made the complaint.

The suspect for the alleged sexual abuse was only arrested more than two years after the complaint was made. Following that arrest a file on the case was sent to the DPP.

Details of the case have been outlined, in a redacted format, in the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) annual report for 2019, which includes case studies of the complaints it investigated last year.

In the case of the alleged sexual assault and grooming of a minor, the person who made the complaint to gardaí was not the victim. Instead, he claimed a female relative of his, who was a minor, was being groomed and sexually abused by a suspect.

The complainant said he had been assured by the Garda member he was dealing with that a file on the case would be sent to the DPP. But when the complainant checked with the DPP, no such file had been sent.

‘Relationship was consensual’

“The garda had interviewed the child, who said the relationship was consensual, and did not want Garda involvement,” Gsoc states in its case summary.

The investigation by Gsoc found the accused person was not arrested until more than two years after the complaint was made. The Garda member who should have investigated the complaint was found not to have done so in a timely manner, and was disciplined for neglect of duty and disobedience of orders.

Another case was investigated after the death of a man who became unresponsive due to injuries he had sustained on the street before gardaí became involved in his case.

A 999 call was made by a member of the public to the Garda to inform them an elderly man had fallen and hit his head hard. When the emergency services arrived the man was found to have an injury to the back of his head, but he refused to go to a hospital in an ambulance and was brought to a Garda station.

Gardaí pleaded with the man to go to hospital, but he refused and was arrested under public order and liquor licensing legislation. During his period of arrest he was taken from a cell to an office in the Garda station and lay on the floor there.

A taxi driver arrived to take the man home, but when he saw him he insisted to gardaí that he required medical attention. The man was returned to his cell and was later found unresponsive. He was taken to hospital, where he died.

An investigation was opened into four Garda members, and one was found to have neglected his duty twice.

In another case, Gsoc found a serving Garda member had, in a private capacity, given a character reference to a man who went on trial over allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. While this was not against any regulations, changes have now been made to the Garda code stating that Garda members were not permitted to provide any character references unless permission had been sought and granted.

Gsoc has also made a general recommendation that a more secure means should be found of securing firearms in bags in the boots of some Garda vehicles. This recommendation arose after a firearm fell out of the boot of a Garda car in Dublin, having been placed into a bag in the boot.

In one investigation carried out by Gsoc, a garda was found to have received the phone of a woman after she contacted the Garda about a family matter. She later received “flirtatious and inappropriate messages” from the garda who had her phone number and an inappropriate photograph of him via social media.

At that point the woman told the garda not to contact her again and the contact stopped. The garda was investigated and said he had acted under the influence of alcohol and due to an error of judgement.

It was recommended he should be sanctioned for “discreditable conduct” and a financial sanction was imposed.

In an unrelated case, a Garda member was accused of attending four leisure activity sessions while he was on duty and should have been working. It was alleged he used a Garda car to pursue this hobby and had brought a Garda firearm with him.

The Garda member was found to have neglected his duty after the complaint from a member of the public was investigated. He admitted he had pursued his leisure activity three times while on duty and that he used a Garda car twice, but said the vehicle was “spare and not required at the time”. The allegation he had his official firearm with him was not proven.

‘Slapped on the buttocks’

Another garda was found in breach over two counts of neglect of duty and two counts of falsehood and prevarication over a complaint by a woman who said she was “slapped on the buttocks” by two young men, one of whom she took a photograph of and had presented it to the garda and the local school.

When the woman contacted the garda dealing with her case she was told the youth had been identified and severely cautioned by a junior liaison officer.

However, when the woman contacted the station again, she was told the garda she was dealing with was on leave and that, according to Pulse records, the youth had not been identified.

While the garda later refuted the account of the victim, he was found to have followed up the lines of inquiry available to identify the youth and was also found to have supplied false information to the victim suggesting the offender had been identified and penalised. He was fined and cautioned.

In another case, when a taxi driver complained to gardaí he had not been paid part of a fare owed to him, he was told over the phone by a Garda member that the issue was not a Garda matter. When he called into the station in person he was told gardaí were not debt collectors. However, a garda was sanctioned for neglect of duty in not investigating the complaint.

In another case, a man complained his car was seized because he could not prove it was insured. When he was able to show his insurance, the vehicle was returned to him, though at the time the Pulse recording of the incident was not amended to show he had produced proof he was insured. Because of the Pulse oversight be was summonsed to court on a charge of having no insurance. The garda involved was found to have breached discipline and the charge was withdrawn against the driver.