Women's groups fear comments by Corrib gardaí will deter reporting of sex crimes


WOMEN’S ORGANISATIONS have expressed major concern that comments by a number of gardaí about rape are a “real setback” to advances made in the reporting of sexual crime.

They were commenting as about 100 people demonstrated outside Leinster House yesterday in protest at the comments made between officers after the arrest of two women at the Corrib gas project in Co Mayo.

The gardaí joked about raping and deporting a woman arrested at a protest against Shell’s Corrib gas pipeline last month. The comments became public after they were recorded on a confiscated video camera that was being transported in a squad car.

Chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre Ellen O’Malley Dunlop said that “in the last number of years because of the hard work we’ve been doing, with the gardaí, the reporting of rape has gone up. But this kind of behaviour of the gardaí will put people off reporting. And there are really good gardaí.”

About one in 10 women who are raped report the crime but just 7 per cent of the reported cases go to court.

The Rape Crisis Centre wants to encourage gardaí with their policy to “have specialised police who will be dealing with rape in their own district so it’s not just a garda on the beat”.

Ms O’Malley Dunlop said “rape is the second most serious crime on our statute books and it is important that the attitude that you can rape a woman, or speak about raping a woman, is okay is once and for all challenged. It’s not okay to even talk about raping a man or a woman.”

Ms O’Malley Dunlop welcomed the action of Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. On Thursday, Mr Callinan apologised to the community of north Mayo for the remarks. Of the five Garda members at the centre of the case, four have now been transferred from Belmullet Garda station to Castlebar where they will perform administrative duties. The fifth garda was already based in Castlebar but has now also been confined to administrative duties.

“I think that the commissioner is dealing with it in the only way he can and we welcome that,” Ms O’Malley Dunlop said.

The National Women’s Council also welcomed the commissioner’s apology and actions to deal with the case, and that the Garda Ombudsman Commission was investigating the incident. In a statement the council’s chief executive Susan McKay said “all women who come into contact with the Garda must be treated with respect. The commissioner must immediately fund training to ensure all gardaí are fully aware of the gravity of sexual violence. All gardaí must be warned that behaviour such as that displayed in Mayo will not be tolerated.”

Cuts in funding for Garda training and education should be reversed to educate gardaí “to have decent attitudes”, she said.

“An Garda Síochána are responsible for upholding the law and for protecting the public. Their behaviour must be exemplary and they must respect the people they serve. That includes women. We are half the population and we are the majority of the population at risk when it comes to crimes of sexual violence.”

Gráinne Griffin of the Dublin Shell to Sea campaign sharply criticised the behaviour of gardaí towards protesters at the Ballinaboy site. “Violence and the threat of violence have long been used in Erris to try and suppress protest,” she said and gardaí were at the site “essentially as soldiers, as private mercenaries for a private company, paid for by us – and they claim to represent us”.

The controversy and the protests have been raised in the Dáil, where it emerged that policing of the protests has cost more than €14 million to date. Some 111 complaints alleging Garda misconduct have been made by protesters, but none have been upheld.