herald

Sunday 11 December 2016

Garda's widow left 'distraught' by delay in clearing husband

TRAGEDY

THE widow of a garda sergeant who took his own life not knowing he had been cleared by a Garda Ombudsman investigation has been left "distraught", friends have said.

Sgt Michael Galvin took his own life at Ballyshannon Garda Station last Thursday.

A Garda Siochana Ombudsman Committee (GSOC) investigation that concluded days earlier had cleared him of any misconduct - but he was never told.

Friends say he had feared losing his job and his home if he was charged with perverting the course of justice.

In a statement GSOC confirmed yesterday that Sgt Galvin had been cleared and a report noting this had been due to be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Accident

The inquiry related to a fatal road accident in Ballyshannon on January 1 this year. GSOC found that Sgt Galvin had acted appropriately throughout.

The body said it would ask an outside agency to investigate the affair.

However, Sgt Galvin's angry colleagues demanded that a High Court judge probe how GSOC conducts investigations.

"It has been an appalling number of days for Collette Galvin and her three children," said John Redmond, Secretary General of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI).

Sgt Galvin, he said, had an impeccable record of service and loyalty to An Garda Siochana and often went beyond the call of duty.

But he had become deeply distressed in recent weeks - and his distress has only increased since May 20, when he was interviewed under caution.

Mr Redmond said: "I would like to directly respond to GSOC's public statement where they suggest that, 'Sgt Galvin was not, nor ever was, the subject of a complaint to GSOC', this is not how Sgt Galvin felt.

"AGSI members are deeply hurt and traumatised. It has now been publicly reported that Sgt Galvin, who has given impeccable service to the force, was not guilty of any wrongdoing following a GSOC investigation into an incident in Donegal earlier this year, but this was not communicated to him, and it clearly should have been," he added.

"It is unfair for GSOC to attempt to detract attention away from their glaring communications failures and point in the direction of the DPP.

"That the Commission would come to a conclusion that there was 'No evidence of criminal behaviour or a breach of discipline' and not inform the person involved or the Garda organisation is beyond belief."

Mr Redmond, who has spoken to the Galvin family, said they were devastated by the death and annoyed by the GSOC investigation.

Concerns

The organisation plans to meet Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald amid growing concerns at how GSOC informs gardai about the conclusion of cases.

It wants a High Court judge to review how this happens.

"This association feels that the presumption of innocence for an accused person is absent when GSOC is investigating men and women in An Garda Siochana," said Mr Redmond.

"The approach they take when they are dealing with the Gardai lacks compassion, understanding, and the degree of fairness required in such circumstances does not seem to exist."

In Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim, where Sgt Galvin lived, there was disbelief and anger.

"Mr Galvin's family, with three young children under 11, are distraught," said Senator Marc MacSharry, who knows the family.

"The very least the State owe the Galvin family is a full independent investigation to provide all the answers and circumstances which surround their tragic loss," he added.

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