Gsoc sent 43 cases claiming fatal or seriously harmful garda conduct

Garda watchdog examined 1,955 complaints last year, up from 1,756 in 2019

Gsoc examined cases where an off-duty garda killed a civilian because of dangerous driving, and an on-duty garda assaulted a teenager. The investigation into the shooting of George Nkencho continues. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Gsoc examined cases where an off-duty garda killed a civilian because of dangerous driving, and an on-duty garda assaulted a teenager. The investigation into the shooting of George Nkencho continues. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

 

Forty-three cases have been sent to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission where the conduct of a garda may have resulted in death, or serious harm, according to the body’s annual report.

Twenty related to fatalities, including seven relating to road traffic incidents, while just over a quarter related to cases where a person was injured or became ill during arrest, pursuit or while in custody. Seven per cent covered alleged sexual offences.

Other cases Gsoc examined included one where an off-duty garda killed a civilian because of dangerous driving, as well as an on-duty garda assaulting a teenager.

The investigation into the shooting of George Nkencho by a garda in west Dublin on December 30th, 2020 continues. An inquest into his death opened in Dublin recently.

The number of complaints rose last year, up from 1,756 in 2019 to 1,955, involving 3,089 separate allegations. Over a third were rejected; 1,264 (65 per cent) were examined. In all, 572 criminal investigations were opened.

Twenty-seven files were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who directed seven prosecutions from six files. Seventy-seven sanctions were imposed by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris after Gsoc investigations.

In one case, Gsoc investigated after a woman was fatally injured when her vehicle was struck from behind by an off-duty garda who was travelling over the speed limit.

Left scene

After the crash, the off-duty garda got out of his car, “approached the other vehicle which had four occupants, including two children, but then left the scene on foot”, the report reads. The woman was pronounced dead at the scene.

A few hours later, the garda presented himself to a National Roads Authority worker, who was working on the motorway. Later, the DPP directed that he should be prosecuted for dangerous driving causing death.

On the morning before the trial was due to begin, he pleaded guilty. A two-year sentence was imposed, along with a fine and a two-year disqualification from driving.

The DPP appealed on the grounds that it was unduly lenient and earlier this year the Court of Appeal quashed the Circuit Court sentence, giving a 2½-year sentence instead, with the final year suspended.

In another case, a garda had to complete a court-ordered anger-management course, pay €3,000 compensation and write a letter of apology to a teenager after he assaulted him.

In 2019, a group of teenagers were asked by gardaí to move away from a public place around midnight. As the group moved away, two of them asked why they were being told to do so.

During the exchange, two were arrested for alleged breaches of the Public Order Act and brought to a Garda station. Later, a relative complained about the way one was treated, producing a recorded video.

The matter was brought to Gsoc’s attention by a garda superintendent who “shared the concerns” of another senior garda who viewed the video about the level of force used.

Intruder at Áras

It was alleged that the group were “aggressively” asked by gardaí to “move on” and that the teenager had been assaulted during his arrest and in the patrol car; and had faced threatening and insulting language.

Two of the three gardaí at the scene refused to identify themselves. Later, the the DPP directed a prosecution in the case of one garda, who was charged with assault.

Meanwhile, Gsoc investigated a security breach at Áras an Uachtaráin, where President Michael D Higgins found himself faced with an intruder when he opened the door of his study.

On September 14th, 2018, at 5.23pm, the man drove his car through an open Áras gate without challenge, drove to the front of the Áras and walked in the open front door.

He tried a number of doors before getting to the President’s study. There, he spoke aggressively to the President about public issues for three minutes, before Mr Higgins went to call for assistance.

He then left and drove out through the Phoenix Gate without being challenged. During the investigation, it emerged that the gate had been left open for workmen.

The garda on duty had gone to the gate lodge “for a few seconds” to close doors swinging in the wind. There, he heard a car on the gravel and made his way back to his post.

He believed the car driver was a member of staff, because the cars were similar, and the intruder was let through. He was found later to have neglected his duty and was fined.

Many complaints last year dealt with Covid-19 restrictions, Between March and the end of December, 295 complaints were made, most covering travel restrictions and interactions with gardaí at checkpoints.