PAC member wants Harris to clarify he gave evidence about Margiotta case

A member of the Oireachtas Public Accounts (PAC) committee is seeking to have Garda Commissioner Drew Harris clarify evidence he gave to the committee about the Margiotta case.

Yesterday, the Irish Examiner reported on Commissioner Harris’s evidence, on May 9, to the PAC, about the case of Lynn Margiotta, a civilian employee of An Garda Siochána, who was prosecuted over allegations of fake “sick notes”. The case against Ms Margiotta and her GP brother, Tony, collapsed on March 26.

Mr Harris told the PAC that he could not find any record of a bullying complaint made by Ms Margiotta just before she was first arrested in August 2014. Ms Margiotta has always claimed she was subjected to a prosecution only because she had made a complaint against a garda member.

The Irish Examiner reported that a bullying complaint had been verbally made and was in the process of being formalised when Ms Margiotta was first arrested.

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane has written to the chair of the PAC, Sean Fleming, asking that the commissioner be contacted to clarify his evidence. He also asked that the commissioner clarify evidence that he gave suggesting that the matter was being investigated by GSOC.

According to a GSOC spokesperson, it is not investigating any aspect of the case that was referenced in the PAC.

Mr Cullinane’s letter sets out that: “I believe that Commissioner Harris needs to clarify his statements to the committee and answer the following questions:

Was the commissioner aware of the verbal complaint made by Ms Margiotta?

“Was the commissioner aware that a mediation process was being put in place before a formal written complaint was lodged — as per public sector policy — when Ms Margiotta was arrested over a sick note?

“Can the commissioner clarify his statement to the committee that a GSOC investigation is underway in relation to the case, given that a GSOC spokesperson has told the Irish Examiner that ‘GSOC is not currently investigating any aspect of the case that it understands was being referred to at the PAC’.

“How many cases have there been, in recent years, of civilians or members of An Garda Síochána being arrested for suspected fraud related to sick notes?

“Is it normal practice with An Garda Síochána to arrest someone, whose employment falls under the garda vote, for suspected fraud related to sick notes, or do HR issues come into play?”

Mr Cullinane also asked about exit surveys of civilian staff members in the force over recent years and whether any trend of bullying or harassment was detected. The commissioner’s evidence is just the latest in a series of developments around the Margiotta case, which included some highly unusual aspects to the investigation and a failure to discover a vital piece of evidence to the defence during the pre-trial process.

Mr Harris has already reported to the Policing Authority about the case, in the last two monthly meetings they held. The authority has requested further information on the case for the June meeting. 

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