Garda suspensions from duty reach record high

Sexual misconduct, drugs and social media among discipline issues, F of I request finds

Garda sources say the  approach to discipline has changed since Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was appointed in September 2018. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Garda sources say the approach to discipline has changed since Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was appointed in September 2018. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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A record number of Garda members were suspended from duty last year over a range of allegations including sexual misconduct; drug-related, corrupt or criminal misconduct; and even social media activity.

Garda sources said the approach to discipline in the force had changed since Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was appointed in September 2018.

At the start of this year, some 73 Garda personnel were suspended from duty pending the outcomes of various investigations into them, according to the data released in reply to a Freedom of Information request. This was about double the rate of suspensions usually in place in the period before Mr Harris was appointed.

Culture change

Garda Headquarters said the Garda Ethics and Culture Bureau was gathering statistical data around culture change in the force, which included data on suspensions, dismissals and complaints.

Of the 73 Garda personnel suspended as of January 5th, 42 were suspended last year while 31 suspensions predated last year and were continued through 2020.

Included in the 42 new suspensions last year, 12 related to alleged discreditable conduct and a further 12 were over alleged criminal conduct. Eight of the suspensions related to alleged corrupt or improper practice. There was one suspension over allegations under each of the following categories: sexual misconduct, social network sites, drug-related, intoxication, intimidation, fraud, inappropriate association, misconduct towards another Garda member, abuse of authority and dishonesty.

Discreditable conduct

Separately, 205 Garda members were last year found to be in breach of discipline, with fines totalling €32,655 imposed on them.

The largest fine was an unspecified sum the equivalent of four weeks’ salary for a Garda member found guilty of discreditable conduct. The second-largest fine was €3,000, also for discreditable conduct.

A fine of €2,500 was also imposed for “falsehood or prevarication”. Gardaí were also fined for neglect of duty, criminal conduct and abuse of authority. The details of the disciplinary case outcomes and the separate cases involving suspensions were released in reply to a Freedom of Information request.