Garda loses action against disciplinary ruling

 

A GARDA has lost his High Court claim that fair procedures were not applied in disciplining him.

The case arose from an incident where he gave a driver a speeding ticket and then followed him in a Garda car for 11 miles before stopping him again for allegedly speeding.

Garda John McGovern of Ennis Garda station asked the High Court to find that the Garda Complaints Board and the Garda Commissioner were not entitled to say a complaint by the motorist involved was minor and could be dealt with by informal admonition of him or by advice from a superior.

He argued that the classification of the alleged breaches of discipline was so serious it constituted criminal offences and he was entitled to have the matter referred to a tribunal to establish the truthfulness of the motorist's complaint.

The case arose after the garda stopped the motorist at Barefield, Ennis, at about midnight on February 17th, 2004. It was alleged he issued a fixed penalty notice to the motorist who claimed he had not been shown proof of speeding.

The man drove off and was followed by Garda McGovern for 11 miles before being stopped again for allegedly speeding.

The motorist lodged a complaint with Garda McGovern's superintendent, who referred it to the Garda Complaints Board which found the matter was minor and could be dealt with by an admonition or warning from his superiors.

An investigating officer subsequently found Garda McGovern had breached discipline by making an entry into an official document which was false or misleading. The investigator also found that Garda McGovern, by issuing a fixed penalty notice "despite being aware that he [the motorist] had not broken the speed limit", had engaged in discreditable conduct and had "malicious intent" by following the motorist for 11 miles.

Garda McGovern subsequently brought High Court judicial review proceedings seeking to have the disciplinary procedures quashed, claiming they would be a serious blemish on his record. He argued he was denied fair procedures.

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill yesterday said he was satisfied the Garda Complaints Board had followed procedural requirements laid down by law. He was also satisfied the Garda Complaints Board had not made any adverse finding against Garda McGovern and that the procedures adopted by the commissioner did not breach the garda's right to natural justice.

While he could see the reason for Garda McGovern's heightened sense of grievance, it was nonetheless a legitimate exercise on the part of the framer of the charges to encompass the widest and worst aspects of conduct, the judge added.