Gsoc officer allegedly ‘coached’ garda’s solicitor

Officer under investigation also accused of several other instances of malpractice

The Gsoc staff member under investigation was responsible for carrying out an investigation into a garda who was involved in a road traffic incident involving a member of the public. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The Gsoc staff member under investigation was responsible for carrying out an investigation into a garda who was involved in a road traffic incident involving a member of the public. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

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A Garda ombudsman officer is under investigation for allegedly “coaching” the solicitor of a garda who they were due to interview as part of an inquiry.

The head of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc), Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring, brought in an external investigator to carry out the inquiry last year.

The Gsoc staff member was responsible for carrying out an investigation into a garda who was involved in a road traffic incident involving a member of the public.

The Gsoc inquiry was opened under Section 98 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which allows the ombudsman to open an investigation in circumstances where it appears an offence may have been committed.

During the inquiry it is alleged that the Gsoc officer spoke to the garda’s solicitor and advised him what his client should say during interview. No charges were ever filed against the garda.

The Gsoc officer also is accused of several other instances of malpractice, including at least one instance of encouraging a complainant to Gsoc to withdraw their grievance against gardaí.

The officer is also alleged to have failed to properly supervise an investigation into the alleged Garda mishandling of a complaint of sexual assault made by a woman.

Disciplinary code

The inquiry into the Gsoc investigator is taking place under the Civil Service disciplinary code. An external body is examining whether the alleged misconduct constitutes potential breaches of the Civil Service code of standards and behaviour.

The allegations date to 2014. The malpractice investigation was started last August and is understood to be nearing completion.

The officer involved has not been suspended and continues to handle case files, including files from the area of the country the alleged misconduct relates to, a fact that has caused consternation among some Gsoc colleagues.

Some Gsoc staff members are also unhappy a judge-led investigation was not opened under Section 109 of the Garda Síochána Act given the serious nature of the allegations.

The officer is currently working under special supervision by superiors, which will continue until the external investigation has been completed.

Gsoc refused to comment on the investigation on Friday. A spokeswoman stated it “does not comment on questions relating to individual employees”.

However, in response to a parliamentary question last month Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan confirmed an investigation was being conducted “by an external and independent investigator” on behalf of Gsoc under the Civil Service disciplinary code.

Explaining the external investigation process in general terms, the Gsoc spokeswoman said: “All Gsoc staff are civil servants and, as such, are subject to the Civil Service code of standards and behaviour which, among other things, sets out how complaints of alleged misconduct and maladministration against civil servants are to be dealt with.”

It is understood an external consultancy firm on contract with the Office of Government Procurement is carrying out the investigation.

If malpractice is discovered potential penalties range from internal disciplinary sanctions up to dismissal.

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