Judges criticise Garda responses to deaths of two men

Reports published into 2008 Dublin docks drowning and 1988 Co Offaly hit-and-run

Investigating judges have criticised the Garda Síochána’s response to a Dublin man’s drowning in 2008 and its lack of communication with a family of a Co Offaly man killed in a 1988 hit-and-run.

The findings were made in two reports published by the Department of Justice on investigations by judges into complaints of Garda misconduct in the investigations of the deaths of the men.

Retired High Court judge Mr Justice Daniel Herbert found the Garda response over the drowning of John Kelly at Britain Quay in Dublin 2 in October 2008 was "confused, inappropriate and inadequate".

He recommended “an urgent investigation” to be carried out within the Garda into the capacity of members in Garda stations to respond “correctly and effectively” to emergency phone calls from the public.


In his report, Mr Justice Herbert found that Kelly was in the water at Grand Canal Dock from 12.15am to 12.58am in the early hours of October 16th, 2008.

Multiple calls

Despite repeated shouts for help and multiple calls from the members of the public to the Garda, a patrol car did not arrive near the scene until 15 minutes after the first call, the judge said in his 114-page report.

He criticised a garda's decision at Irishtown Garda station to tell a public caller that the incident was the responsibility of the Pearse Street Garda station and then failed to pass on the message as she said she would.

“I find it totally unacceptable that a member of the public who makes a telephone call to a Garda station urgently seeking Garda assistance should be met with any form of jurisdictional objection,” he said.

Retired District Court judge Mary Collins examined the original Garda investigation into the death of James Clancy in the road accident in Tullamore on December 1st, 1987.

The inquiries were ordered last year by the then minister for justice, Frances Fitzgerald, to consider allegations of Garda failings or misconduct in the investigations of the two men.


The investigations were among five ordered arising from complaints of Garda misconduct in 320 cases.

Judge Collins said that an investigation by a chief superintendent into an unsubstantiated hearsay allegation that Garda members were involved in Clancy's death was reasonable and adequate and that rationale for not proceeding with an investigation was "persuasive".

The judge, however, criticised the Garda for “an unacceptable lack of communication” with the Clancy family about the status and progress of the initial investigation and later investigation into the allegations.

“The family have been left, for the past 30 years, with unanswered questions about the circumstances of their father’s death,” she concluded in her 54-page report.

“They have had to endure years of allegations and speculation which is, and has been, upsetting and distressing for them.”

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times