Inquiries led to 154 sanctions against gardaí


SIX GARDAÍ and one civilian were convicted of offences last year following investigations by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

Investigations carried out by the commission in 2011 led to 154 sanctions being applied by the Garda Commissioner against members of the force and two gardaí were given custodial sentences upon conviction.

The commission also recorded a 53 per cent increase in the number of fatalities related in some way to Garda activity that required an investigation. The figures are contained in its annual report for 2011 which was published yesterday in Dublin.

The commission investigated 2,275 complaints containing 6,230 allegations of misconduct against members of the Garda Síochána in 2011. Of these, 896 complaints including 1,424 allegations of misconduct were deemed inadmissible for a variety of reasons.

Six gardaí were convicted in the courts of offences including assault, assault causing harm, careless driving and perverting the course of justice following directions for prosecutions issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Daniel Hickey (29), Sgt Martha McEnery (42) and John Burke (39) were prosecuted in relation to an incident in which a civilian was assaulted by officers during an arrest in Waterford in 2010. Hickey and Burke were jailed after being respectively convicted of assault and attempting to pervert the course of justice. McEnery had her sentence suspended after she was convicted of a lesser charge.

Ninety referrals were received from the Garda Commissioner during 2011 where he formed the view that the conduct of a member of the force may have resulted in the death of, or serious harm to, a member of the public.

Of the referrals received, 23 related to fatalities, representing an increase of 53 per cent on the number of similar referrals in 2010. Nine fatalities related to road traffic incidents, there were four deaths in Garda custody and nine occurred following initial Garda contact. The greatest numbers of referrals were in Cork, Limerick, Dublin and Donegal.

The commission is examining five years of data on incidents involving Garda vehicles with a view to identifying “common causal factors”, chairman Simon O’Brien said. “We will come forward with something on that in the next few months.”

The commission has written to the Minister for Justice recommending changes to the way complaints about poor Garda interaction with the public is dealt with. A large proportion of complaints received from the public relate to perceived service failure and the commissioners feel these could be addressed differently.

The single most common complaint against gardaí in 2011 was abuse of authority, which accounted for 39 per cent of all complaints. Neglect of duty accounted for 26 per cent, 12 per cent related to alleged discourtesy and 11 per cent referred to non-fatal offences against the person.

Mr O’Brien said: “What the public is saying to us is that they want an attention to service.” Many complaints were “at the very low end of the scale”, he said, and included issues surrounding incidents such as “non-return of phone calls”.

“A conceptual paper has gone forward to the Minister, which he will consider,” Mr O’Brien said.

The commission opened one investigation into matters it considered to be in the public interest last year.

The investigation arose following allegations made by two female protesters about comments made by gardaí following their arrest in March 2011. The commission recommended that disciplinary proceedings be taken against one of the gardaí involved.