herald

Sunday 19 August 2018

Garda fury at threats as officer was probed

ASSAULT CASE: 'Heavy handed' GSOC under fire

AN official from the Garda Ombudsman allegedly gave four gardai one hour to respond to him -- or they would be reported to the DPP.

The investigator reportedly made the demand when he rang officers' mobiles phones last week in an effort to gain evidence in the trial of Garda Brendan Whitty for assault.

The Garda Siochana Ombuds-man Commission (GSOC) official allegedly told the four that unless they called him back in one hour it would be taken as a refusal to cooperate and the DPP would be notified.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) may now seek to question the status of the official who made the investigation, the Herald understands.

The GRA told the Herald today that they were now asking the Minister for Justice to embark on an enquiry.

"We believe there was inappropriate behaviour shown by two members of GSOC and we are seeking to determine that status of one of these officers," a GRA spokesperson said.

"We are pushing for an enquiry and furnishing all evidence in our possession to the Minister for Justice so that he can initiate an action under Section 109 of the Garda Siochana Act 2005."



DEFENCE

There is no suggestion that the GSOC official acted unlawfully, but rank-and-file gardai believe the alleged line of investigation was 'heavy handed'.

The matter was raised at a meeting in Kevin Street Garda Station yesterday to discuss what action should be taken against another official who allegedly told Garda Whitty that 'the next time we speak you'll have been sacked'. This statement is believed to have caused major upset to Garda Whitty who was burdened with paying for his own legal defence.

GSOC claimed that at no time did they act outside their powers during the trial process.

"GSOC is not inclined to engage in discussion of supposed facts emanating from unnamed sources," a spokesperson told the Herald.

"GSOC is aware of certain comments by the Garda Representative Association and has responded publicly to those.

"GSOC collected evidence in relation to this case and forwarded it to the DPP who decided there was sufficient evidence to bring the case to trial. As to what occurred during the trial process, GSOC rejects any suggestion that, in collecting evidence at the request of Counsel for the State in a trial before the Courts, it exceeded its powers.

"It is reasonable that GSOC should seek to collect evidence and that the context of such collection be explained to the witnesses, be they gardai or not."

It took a jury of 12 people just one hour to unanimously acquit Garda Whitty of assault causing harm to Keith Murphy.

The phone call incident occurred during the trial after an issue arose surrounding the identity of the victim and judge ordered the Ombudsman's office to deal with it.

An officer from GSOC travelled to Kevin Street to quiz four of Garda Whitty's colleagues but they had not begun their shift. The officer then allegedly demanded the home addresses of the four gardai but the staff at the station refused.

Mobile numbers for the men were provided but all went to voicemail when the GSOC officer attempted to contact them.

According to a source he then left a message on each garda's phone stating that if they did not contact him within an hour he would regard it as refusal to cooperate with the investigation and contact the Director of Public Prosecutions.

hnews@herald.ie

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