Tribunal told of smuggling by garda


An official Garda car in Dundalk was used for smuggling contraband from Northern Ireland in the mid-1980s, a retired garda sergeant has told the Smithwick Tribunal.

Thomas Byrne told the tribunal he had been deeply concerned about the activities of fellow sergeant, Leo Colton, which he said had involved a range of petty criminal activities, activities of “a sexual nature”, as well as some activities of a “subversive” nature.

Mr Byrne told the tribunal this morning he had been warned by senior officers to “keep an eye” on Mr Colton when he was transferred to his unit at Dundalk Garda station.

Both men were sergeants but Mr Byrne had been put in charge of the unit. However, he said he did not use his authority. He said he became concerned when he was “told the car was being used for the purpose of importing contraband”.

Mr Byrne told counsel for the tribunal, Dara Hayes, the car involved was an official, marked Garda car which was assigned to Dundalk station. He said he believed it was being used either to bring items such as a television from the Border to Dundalk or was being used to escort another vehicle carrying contraband from the Border to the town. He told Mr Hayes he believed the smuggling was not for personal uses.

“It was a business” he said.

He told the tribunal he had warned his unit at the start of a daily “parade” when Mr Colton was absent that “under no circumstances were they to be alone in the car” with Mr Colton. If they found themselves in this position they were to return to the station immediately.

Mr Byrne also told the tribunal he wrote a list of 10 or 12 questions on a station blackboard under the heading: “Who is responsible”, which was visible to about 100 officers and men who were based in Dundalk.

The first of these was to the effect of “Who was found shoplifting?” while others related to who took money out of the meter in the snooker room; who was using the patrol car for purposes not authorised; who was responsible for a file on gaming going missing; who was taking advantage of women when they were reporting problems; and who was spending time in the vehicle tax office at night.

He explained to Mr Hayes he had been told Mr Colton had stolen something from a supermarket in Dundalk while investigating a break-in. He also said he understood an internal investigation had “found” Mr Colton was responsible for the disappearance of the snooker room money.

He said Mr Colton had a key to the cupboard where his file on gaming in Dundalk was maintained and he said the allegations regarding women were “of a sexual nature”.

He said they related to women who came to the station to make domestic complaints being driven home by Mr Colton in Mr Colton’s own car. He also said he was “suspicious” of the amount of time Mr Colton spent at night in the vehicle tax office as Mr Colton was not an active prosecutor in that area.

However he agreed with Eamon Coffey, counsel for Mr Colton, that his evidence was mainly “gossip and hearsay”. He could not provide names of those who had told him of the allegations. He also agreed that if any disciplinary action had been taken against Mr Colton he would have heard about it.

Mr Byrne said he agreed no disciplinary measures were taken. “I would agree with you there was nothing, nothing at all”.