Repeat of Bailieboro cases across State would ‘challenge’ confidence in Garda

Guerin report highlights ‘significant’ weaknesses in how assault and public order cases were handled

Sgt Maurice McCabe left his position as sergeant-in-charge of Bailieboro in March 2008 citing “lack of management support, lack of standards, lack of accountability and lack of duty to the public”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Sgt Maurice McCabe left his position as sergeant-in-charge of Bailieboro in March 2008 citing “lack of management support, lack of standards, lack of accountability and lack of duty to the public”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 


were repeated across the State, the Guerin report concludes.

In his 300-page report on a dossier of claims handed in by Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, barrister Seán Guerin says there were “significant” weaknesses in how cases of assault, false imprisonment, dangerous driving and public order breaches were examined.

Mr Guerin says “delay, for whatever reason, is a feature of many of the cases”, and that a striking feature common to almost all of them was that the investigations were carried out by inexperienced gardaí .

Management guidance
“There is little, and in some cases no, evidence in the papers I have seen of appropriate supervisory and management guidance and, in almost all cases, no clear sense that investigations were being kept under review on an ongoing basis.”

Mr Guerin says that in cases where guidance was provided, it was not necessarily followed and that failure to comply “appears either to have not been noticed or, for some reason, not to have led to any consequences internally”.

The report says confidence in the effectiveness of the policing service is important in ensuring a sense of security among the public as well as confidence that crimes will be prosecuted.

“The deficiencies identified in this review, if they were widely replicated, would be a challenge to public confidence in the criminal justice system itself. There is, of course, also the possibility that the management systems that operated within the district, and which may be replicated throughout the country, are themselves defective in some way.”

In particular, he says, it is not clear that the potential supervisory benefits of “the Pulse computer system were routinely and effectively exploited”.

Mr Guerin says he is “not convinced” that recommendations after earlier internal reports addressed the problems identified, citing a recommendation that there should be a balance of younger and older officers.

Of the district officer at the time, who is given the name “Superintendent Foxtrot”, the report says it was “remarkable” that when he assumed responsibility for Bailieboro the number of probationary gardaí allocated to the district had increased by 63 per cent. This, Mr Guerin noted, was a “cohort of inexperience” representing a significant management challenge, even when the previous, lesser level of probationary gardaí had already caused problems.

There was an absence of an inspector within the station which was “connected to the absence of continuity and stability at district officer level”.

“In the 3½ years that Sgt McCabe served as sergeant-in-charge, Bailieboro, he served under five district officers. It is hard to see how that level of turnover at district officer level could be consistent with the proper management of the policing service within a district.”

Sgt McCabe had referred to Supt Foxtrot in relation to his concerns over the general standard of Garda investigations and compliance with internal procedures.

Specific incidents
In January 2008, Sgt McCabe met Supt Foxtrot and presented him with a list of his concerns which referred to specific incidents but not by name. A planned meeting of sergeants on foot of this was cancelled and never subsequently held.

Frustrated by what he felt was a continued apathy, Sgt McCabe left his position as sergeant-in-charge of Bailieboro in March 2008, and cited, in a memo to Supt Foxtrot, his reasons as: “lack of management support; lack of standards; lack of accountability and lack of duty to the public”.