Past cases suggest disciplinary action unlikely to follow
ANALYSIS:ON THE basis of what’s gone before, the only garda involved in the so-called rape tape incident against whom sanction has been recommended has little to worry about.
In the estimated 20 cases where the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has recommended disciplinary action against members of the force for their roles in policing the Shell to Sea protests, none has been acted upon.
The commission has the power to investigate complaints against gardaí using two routes.
It can pursue a criminal route, during which alleged criminal wrongdoing can be probed and files sent to the DPP recommending prosecution.
For more minor allegations it goes down the disciplinary route. Gardaí alleged to have breached disciplinary regulations can be investigated, with recommendations sent to the Garda Commissioner that the member be disciplined.
However, under both forms of investigation the commission’s powers stop short of being the sanctioning body. It is the DPP who decides if gardaí should face charges and the courts that impose sanction.
Under the disciplinary route, it is up to the Garda Commissioner to decide what sanction, if any, will be imposed.
Since the ombudsman commission’s inception five years ago, its disciplinary recommendations on gardaí policing Corrib have always been ignored by the commissioner.
Very early in the “rape tape” inquiry, three of the five gardaí present when the contentious comments were made were cleared of wrongdoing because they did not utter the comments.
This left only one member of garda rank and one of sergeant rank facing investigation. The sergeant has since retired from the force early and, as such, is now beyond the reach of disciplinary sanction. The commission has recommended that sanction be taken by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan against the garda.
Many senior officers believe that the morale of those policing the Corrib protests would be dealt a serious blow if headquarters disciplined any of those gardaí.
They apparently believe the possibility of criminal prosecution represents a sufficient deterrent and sanction.