A decision of the Garda Commissioner that a garda should be sacked if he did not resign for breaches of discipline including an allegation of sexual impropriety has been quashed by the High Court, writes Ann O'Loughlin of the Irish Examiner.
Cork-based Garda Colm O'Flaherty today won his High Court challenge against the Commissioner’s decision of 2014 that he resign or face being dismissed after Garda O'Flaherty made certain admissions before a garda Board of Inquiry into alleged breaches of discipline.
Garda O'Flaherty, who denied the allegations, had claimed he had entered into an arrangement with a Garda Superintendent that if he made certain admissions he would get a monetary fine only.
However, following his admission the Garda Commissioner had substituted the fine and had instead said Garda O'Flaherty must resign or face being dismissed from the Force.
Garda OFlaherty challenged the decision of the Commissioner and brought High Court proceedings aimed at overturning that decision. The Commissioner had opposed the action.
Mr Justice Michael Moriarty held the punishment of resign or face dismissal imposed on Garda O’Flaherty, of Togher Garda Station, Cork, should be quashed and remitted to the Garda Commissioner for due consideration of an appropriate sanction.
Garda O'Flaherty was accused of breaches of discipline including that he had inappropriate sexual relationship with a female, that he had harassed her by telephone and had demanded sexual acts from that person on the threat of issuing summons and taking other legal action.
It was also claimed he had assessed PULSE records in relation to a person who did not form part of his duties.
The Garda was investigated in respect to those allegations by GSOC more than seven years ago and had been suspended from duty. However, the DPP had directed that no criminal prosecution be brought against him.
However, GSOC later furnished a report to the Garda Commissioner recommending disciplinary action against Garda O'Flaherty. In 2013 a three-man Garda Board of Inquiry was set up to conduct the investigation.
Garda O'Flaherty claimed that following negotiations he entered into an agreement in relation to the allegations with a Garda Superintendent, who had been a member of the inquiry board.
Garda O’Flaherty claimed that under that agreement he entered guilty pleas to the breaches of discipline alleged against him.
The guilty pleas had been tendered in the specific circumstances where it was understood the Superintendent overseeing the agreement had contacted Garda Headquarters and obtained assurances, he claimed.
The Superintendent, it was claimed, had assured Garda O’Flaherty’s solicitor that he had it “guaranteed from the top” that in the event of the guilty pleas there would be only a monetary penalty.
However, the Garda Commissioner then determined the penalty for the breaches of discipline should be that Garda O’Flaherty resign from An Garda Siochana in lieu of dismissal.
In the event of his failure to resign Garda O'Flaherty would be dismissed, the Commissioner directed.
Garda O'Flaherty's action was opposed by the Commissioner who denied the claims and contended the decision should be left undisturbed.
In his judgment Mr Justice Moriarty said "courts should not lightly or capriciously intervene in Garda disciplinary matters".
There is a clear public interest in seeking to ensure that complaints against individual Garda members are investigated and ruled upon in a fair professional and prompt manner, the Judge said.
However, based on factual findings in what the judge said was "a troubling case" Garda O'Flaherty had successfully grounded his claim.
This, the Judge said, was due to the Garda Commissioner's failure to respect the Garda's legitimate expectations that his admissions would result in a monetary sanction.
In the circumstances, the Judge said he was quashing the Commissioner's decision and remitted the matter back to the Garda Commissioner for due consideration in light of all that has transpired.