Women to make complaint about gardaí

 

THE GARDA Síochána Ombudsman Commission is due to receive a formal complaint today from the two women at the centre of the controversy over allegations of misconduct by Garda officers.

One of the women is also due to attend a Shell to Sea press conference in Dublin this morning.

The Garda ombudsman initiated an inquiry on Tuesday as a “matter of public interest”, following the revelation that gardaí were inadvertently recorded on a camera making jokes about threatening to deport and rape one of the women.

The video camera was confiscated from one of the women after their arrest for alleged public order offences at the Shell Corrib gas pipeline site at Aughoose last Thursday. The women were taken in separate vehicles to Belmullet Garda station, where they were later released without charge, and discovered the camera had not been switched off after it was taken from them.

The ombudsman investigators are expected to interview gardaí at the centre of the case today. A separate internal Garda investigation into the incident, conducted by Garda Supt Gearóid Begley of Tuam division, is at an advanced stage.

This report will be presented to Assistant Commissioner Jack Nolan, who is in charge of the western region, and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. They are expected to get that report as early as today and will then decide if a criminal investigation should be opened or if the matter will be dealt with by way of an internal Garda disciplinary process.

Garda sources say they believe the matter will most likely be handled as an internal disciplinary matter. Possible sanctions could range from suspension or monetary fines to dismissal. At this stage, dismissal of the gardaí is not regarded as the likely outcome, a number of sources have said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was concerned about the alleged comments, which he described as completely inappropriate.

“I’ll wait and see the result of the investigation both by the Garda and the ombudsman but I have to say that these remarks, if they are true, are completely inappropriate for any member of the Garda to make about anybody,” Mr Kenny told RTÉ news.

He was “quite sure” there would be consequences as a result of the investigations, which he hoped would be concluded “quickly and effectively”. The “vast majority” of gardaí did their job “as they are expected to do”, he said.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he was shocked on hearing the contents of the recording. Mr Gilmore said that rape was a heinous crime and should not be laughed at. He urged people not to jump to conclusions until investigations were complete and said people should have no hesitation in reporting a sexual offence to the Garda.

The Association of Garda Superintendents said its members never encountered gardaí making disparaging remarks about the crime of rape. “The reported remarks are not reflective of what generally takes place within the organisation on a day to day basis,” association president Garda Supt Jim Smith said.

At the association’s annual conference in Westmanstown, Dublin, yesterday, Garda Supt Smith said the association would never condone inappropriate remarks about rape and the comments were not reflective of the Garda mindset.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents rank-and-file gardaí, said the matter was a very serious one that may yet result in criminal charges.

While the gardaí, including a number of GRA members, who were under investigation were entitled to due process, the association said it does “not condone any conduct or discussion that attacks women or women’s rights”.

GRA general secretary PJ Stone said coverage of the episode may have given the public the wrong impression about the comments. “Many people will be under the wrong impression that comments were made directly to a woman. They were not.”

The GRA, which represents more than 11,000 members in the near 14,500-strong Garda force, described the comments as inappropriate, adding they “should not have been said by anyone”.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter moved to reassure victims of sexual crimes that their cases would be fully investigated by the Garda.

“It is of huge importance that in all circumstances in which members of the Garda Síochána are interacting with the general community that they’re considered in the approach they take and respectful of all individuals,” he said.