THE organisation representing the country’s 11,000 rank-and-file gardaí will take the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) to the European Court of Human Rights if it continues to investigate members of the force for off-duty incidents where they haven’t broken any laws.
Members of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) are particularly angry that off-duty gardaí involved in car crashes are being pursued by the GSOC.
Yesterday, for the second time in two days, the GSOC came under fire for its allegedly “heavy-handed approach”, by gardaí attending their annual GRA conference in Co Carlow.
Thurles-based Garda Pat Harrington said there should be one law for all citizens, but in this case there was one law for the off-duty garda and another for everybody else.
Delegates at the conference listened intently as Garda John Keating from the Galway West Garda Division explained how a colleague involved in a car crash went through the GSOC mill.
He said his colleague was formally interviewed twice in the space of four months and had his car seized. He got it back 7½ months later.
“They [the GSOC] also wanted to interview his 13-year-old son who was travelling with him at the time,” Garda Keating said, adding that his colleague was eventually proved entirely blameless.
“We’re paid for eight hours on duty each day, yet we’re accountable for 24 hours a day. That’s not right,” he said.
Michael Corcoran, a senior GRA official in Cork city, claimed two of his colleagues were investigated and told to travel to Dublin for a GSOC interview. He claimed they were left waiting for more than 1½ hours while complainants were whisked in almost straight away.
“To say they were being mistreated is an understatement. The Ombudsman Commission needs policing,” said Garda Corcoran.
Monaghan-based Owen Connell, also a senior GRA official, urged delegates to log everything the GSOC did to gardaí.
He said he was particularly annoyed to learn that a colleague had received a letter from the GSOC telling him that a complaint against him had been withdrawn.
“This was the first he knew that there was a complaint against him,” Garda Connell said.
There was also criticism of the GSOC for failing to inform gardaí under investigation who had made a complaint against them.
“Every member of the public is entitled to face their accuser,” Garda Pat O’Sullivan said.
The GRA is also demanding that the GSOC ensures that gardaí under investigation are immediately made aware of the nature of a complaint against them, who is making it and that they are informed within a maximum period of two months if the complaint is not upheld.
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