No disciplinary proceedings should be taken against two gardaí after a firearm was lost in Dublin city centre last year, says the Garda watchdog.
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) recommends no further action be taken against two detectives arising out of an incident on July 10, 2018 when an official firearm was handed into a Garda station by a member of the public after it fell out of a garda vehicle.
Gsoc launched an inquiry following media reports claimed that a loaded sub-machine gun — a Heckler & Koch MP7 — was temporarily lost from a Garda car near Harcourt Square.
Contrary to some reports at the time, Gsoc said the gun was not loaded and was not carried on the Luas by a member of the public before being brought to Store Street Garda Station.
Following reconstructions of events, the inquiry concluded that, on the balance of probabilities, the car boot where the firearm had been placed opened as the unmarked Garda vehicle went over an exit ramp. Investigators believe the firearm fell from the boot as the car made a sharp turn onto another street.
Gsoc said it has written to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris with the recommendation that all gardaí be given instructions on how firearms are to be carried in vehicles in a safe manner. Gsoc said it became aware there was no standard operating procedure for the transport of firearms in vehicles within the force.
The two detectives told Gsoc they were in an operation which had just become “active” and were driving with lights and sirens at the time the bag containing the firearm fell from the vehicle.
They said they took immediate steps to retrieve the firearm as soon as they became aware the boot had opened. The detective in the passenger seat said he ran towards the bag containing the gun when he saw a woman place it beside railings before the driver of another car took it and drove off.
Garda stations were alerted about the missing weapon and it was confirmed within 15 minutes the bag containing the gun and ammunition had been handed into Store Street Garda Station by a member of the public. Gsoc said a warning light on the dashboard to highlight an open boot may not be visible right away to gardaí having to show care and attention to pedestrians and other vehicles when driving on busy streets.
It said no breach of discipline could be considered as the firearm was packed into the vehicle in a carry bag in the safest condition — unloaded with the breach cleared and the safety catch forward, while the ammunition was kept separate.
Gsoc said it was unlikely the detectives would have heard a warning noise about the boot being open given the noise on the street and from sirens, radio and traffic. It also acknowledged the gardaí made every effort to stop safely and retrieve the firearm promptly.