Rugby rape trial investigator appointed to senior Garda role

PSNI’s Paula Hilman one of three new assistant commissioners

A serving PSNI officer has been appointed to one of the most senior positions in An Garda Síochána.

Detective Chief Paula Hilman will become the second PSNI officer to take up a senior role in the Garda when she takes up the post of assistant commissioner later this year. Garda Commissioner Drew Harris served as second in command of Northern Ireland's police force until taking up his current post in 2018.

Ms Hilman is one of three new assistant commissioner (AC) appointments made by the Policing Authority this week. The current head of the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab), Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Clavin, has also been appointed to the rank, along with Chief Superintendent Ann Marie Cagney who commands the Dublin East Division.

However, there is uncertainty over when they will take up their roles. There is currently one vacant assistant commissioner position with another three expected to open up with the retirement of current ACs. At least two of those gardaí are now likely to stay on past their planned retirement date to help deal with the coronavirus crisis.



Assistant commissioner is the third most senior rank in the Garda. Each of the eight assistant commissioners are responsible for a specific region or area of policing.

Ms Hilman is currently in charge of the PSNI's public protection branch which oversees investigations into domestic and sexual abuse. In 2017, she supervised the investigation into the alleged rape of a young woman by Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding. The men were acquitted on all charges.

Ms Hilman also serves as the first female president of the Superintendents' Association of Northern Ireland.

Mr Clavin was appointed as head of the Cab in 2016 and has overseen a significant expansion in its operations targeting the wealth of organised criminals. Last year the bureau seized a record €50 million in cash and assets.

In 2017, Ms Cagney has served as chief superintendent of the Dublin East Division, based in Dún Laoghaire. She was previously a detective superintendent with the Protective Services Bureau, which handles sex and domestic violence offences.

Final approval

The three appointees were selected from a final shortlist of seven candidates. A public announcement will be made once they receive final approval from Mr Harris.

They will fill vacancies left by three departing assistant commissioners. Pat Leahy, head of the Dublin Metropolitan Region, is availing of the early retirement package and was due to leave in April. However, it is understood he has been asked to remain on for a period in light of the coronavirus crisis.

Head of the Security and Intelligence branch Michael O’Sullivan may also stay on. A third AC, John O’Driscoll of Special Crime Operations, is departing the force on age grounds.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times