O’Higgins Report: Garda 'showed very little enthusiasm' to investigate possible sex assault on bus

O’Higgins Report: Garda 'showed very little enthusiasm' to investigate possible sex assault on bus

The final report of the Commission investigating complaints of garda malpractice has stated that a Cavan garda “failed to appreciate the relative

gravity” of an incident involving possible sexual assault on a bus.

The report also found that the investigation of the incident was “very poor”, Garda Fearghal McCarthy, a probationer garda, “showed very little enthusiasm” to investigate the public order incident on a bus at Kingscourt, Co Cavan on February 25, 2007.

    The facts of the case

  • At 4:30 am on 25th February 2007, Ms. Lorraine Browne contacted Bailieboro garda station to complain of the behaviour of a number of individuals on a minibus which she was driving, and to request the assistance of gardaí.
  • Garda Fearghal McCarthy, a probationer garda, observer in the official patrol car, and

    Garda Sinéad Delaney, the driver, arrived at the scene at about 4:50 am and spoke to

    Ms. Browne.

  • Ms. Browne made a statement about the matter on February 26, 2007.
  • On May 30, 2007 Ms. Browne signed a statement withdrawing her complaint. There

    was no prosecution.

On February 26, 2007 Ms. Browne made the following statement about the incident to Garda McCarthy:

My name is Lorraine Browne of Lough an Lea, Kingscourt, Co. Cavan. On 25/2/07 I was picking up regulars who travel with me in the minibus, from Carrickmacross.

At 3.30 am I went to Carrickmacross to pick them up at the Roma chipper at the top of the town. In total I picked up ten to twelve people.

Four lads got on the bus that I didn’t know. I told everyone on the bus that I was going to Kingscourt and when the four lads were getting on told them that I was going there.

They said they were going there too. The minute I pulled off the verbal abuse from the biggest lads started.

He started verbally abusing the lady passengers that I had on board. Putting women down saying filthy talk and talking about their privates. He was trying to start a row with their partners by saying stuff to them.

His mates one of them the smallest lad kept laughing and egging him on. The bald lad was asleep in the bus and the last lad was sitting behind me telling them to stop.

About half way to Kingscourt I stopped to let a fella and his girlfriend off and when the girl was getting off, the biggest lad grabbed her arse.

Her boyfriend turned around and said “how dare you mate”. The big lad laughed in his face.

The couple then left. I then carried on to Kingscourt the whole way to Kingscourt the lad kept shouting abuse at the other passengers.

The bald lad, slept the whole way to Kingscourt. When I got to Kingscourt I told the four lads they would have to get off it was the last stop.

I still had about six locals on the bus who I was going to drop home because I would always leave them home. The four lads refused to get off when asked.

The biggest lad kept saying to ring the Guards that he wasn’t moving he wanted to be taken to Ardee. He refused to get off for about half an hour and the other people just got impatient as they wanted to get home so they got off.

One girl was still on the bus she didn’t get off. When the passengers were getting off the biggest lad groped another girl when she was getting off.

The four lads were still on the bus at this stage. I then agreed to take them to Ardee and the lad sitting behind me said out loud to the other lads that “we’ll pay herwell if she does it”.

The biggest lad then started shouting “she’s getting nothing off me I’ll just take the bus and take myself fucking home”. At this stage I was terrified so I told them I wasn’t taking them anywhere but I’d ring them another taxi.

I then got off the bus and walked to the middle of the road so they couldn’t hear me and rang Bailieboro Garda Station. The minute I got off the phone I heard the girl on the bus screaming.

I ran around to the side door and saw the big lad had a grip of the girl holding her by her clothes at the front.

She then broke free of him and ran up the town screaming.

The quiet lad that was sitting behind me went running after her to see if she was ok. I then ran up after him and told him to go back and mind the bus.

The girl kept running away I didn’t manage to catch up with her. I then turned and went back towards the bus. They were all on the bus still shouting very loud.

I then saw the big rowdy fella step off the bus shouting “where the fuck was she gone”. At this stage I turned and ran towards Kingscourt Garda Station and hid at the corner of the road so that I could still see them.

They all got off the bus and walked up towards where I was so I ran further up towards the Garda Station. I could still hear them shouting where has she gone.

I then heard the voices were getting faded so I walked back down towards the corner and saw that they were going back towards the bus still looking for me.

When they got back to the bus they walked across the road to the opposite side of the street and stood around the Europa chipper.

A fair [sic] that I was to pick up in Bailieboro started ringing me at this stage and knew I was in trouble in a distresses stage [sic].

They then got another taxi and when they got to Kingscourt rang me to see where I was and picked me up. They then brought me down to the bus and the Gardaí landed at the same time.

Everybody that was on the bus was very nervous of the lads. I was working with C.I.E as a bus driver working on route 77 which is the worst one in Dublin which is the Tallaght one for 5 years.

Previous to this I was taxi driver around Dublin for 4/5 years. This was the worst I have ever encountered in all of my years driving.

This statement has been read over to me and is correct.

I have been invited to make any additions or alterations. I do not wish to make any.

Some weeks later Garda McCarthy contacted Ms. Browne by telephone. Her account of the conversation was that:

...he basically said to me, well in a nice way you haven’t got much of a case...

He went on to say that I would have to find the witnesses that was on the bus, find names, go to court, face these guys in court and he said then that they might just get off with a caution.

So basically it was like he was saying you’re wasting your time, you know.

She later said:

...basically he made me feel, in a very polite manner, I have to say, that there was not much point going ahead with the case because he told me what was going to be involved, that statements would have to be taken, witnesses would have to be found, he told me I’d probably have to go to court and face them in a court of law.

He told me all them things in a very polite manner, and basically said to me, like you know it’s up to yourself, after telling me all that.

So, you know, what you take from that, is you have no case really, have you.

The Commission found that the investigation of the incident “was very poor”, and pointed out “some of the obvious defects”.

  • Garda McCarthy failed to take a statement from the two witnesses who were at the scene shortly after the event.
  • At the scene Garda McCarthy spoke to the suspects and took their names, addresses and contact details. Other than that he failed to take any note of what transpired and he does not know whether he cautioned them or not. Even more surprisingly, he does not know whether some or all of them made admissions.
  • Ms. Browne …picked up regular customers in her minibus. She told the commission that these people normally telephoned her to book the minibus. Garda McCarthy failed to follow up this lead, and made no effort to contact those persons.
  • Garda McCarthy made no attempt to interview the suspects whose names he had noted on the night, with the exception of Mr. A.
  • Garda McCarthy contacted the suspect Mr. A with a view to taking a statement from him, but, in the event, failed to pursue that course of action.
  • Garda McCarthy failed to obtain a statement from Garda Delaney, who was in the garda car with him, and was present when Ms. Browne was at the scene.
  • Garda McCarthy failed to establish whether or not any of the suspects had criminal records.
  • Garda McCarthy asked Ms. Browne to try to locate the lady who was allegedly subjected to a sexual assault. Ms. Browne knew which road she lived on but not her address. However, the fact that Ms. Browne was asked to try and ascertain the name of the passenger did not exonerate the gardaí, and Garda McCarthy in particular, from making enquiries of their own. No such enquiries were made.
  • Garda McCarthy failed to take any written note of the precise circumstances of the transfer of the money and its relationship with the withdrawal of the case.
  • Even though it was his first public order incident, Garda McCarthy failed to discuss it with his supervisory sergeant, Sergeant David Burke.
  • Garda McCarthy commenced writing a report on the incident on March 14, 2007. This report was never completed, or submitted. Garda McCarthy cannot explain why the report was abandoned and he accepts that it was an error on his part.
  • There was a lamentable lack of note taking demonstrated in this investigation. The conversations with the suspects were not recorded and they may even have made some incriminating admissions.

The Commission’s report stated that Garda McCarthy “probably due to inexperience, failed to appreciate the relative gravity of the incident, even after Ms. Browne made her statement.

“He showed very little enthusiasm for this investigation.

“Ms. Browne, a lady who does not scare easily, was subjected to a nasty and frightening experience which left her terrified and upset.

“She was entitled to have her case investigated fully and professionally. Unfortunately this did not happen.

It would appear that Garda McCarthy learned from his mistakes and from his further training.”

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