The arrest yesterday of a garda for an alleged sexual assault is the first time the Garda ombudsman has ever arrested a police officer.
The move is seen as a landmark for the watchdog body and underlines the seriousness of the alleged offence.
It is understood that the female victim had come in contact with gardaí — including the alleged offender — during an earlier search of a premises she was in.
It is claimed that the garda came back after the search operation and sexually assaulted the woman, a foreign national.
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is investigating whether or not the alleged sexual offence took place.
The victim made the allegation more than a year ago, shortly after the alleged offence occurred.
However, it is not thought that the woman attended a sexual assault treatment unit and that forensic tests were not conducted after the alleged attack.
The Irish Examiner understands there were no witnesses to the alleged offence, nor any CCTV footage.
Members of GSOC contacted the garda in question after the allegations.
The fact that the investigation team has moved to arrest the officer means attempts to interview him voluntarily either did not work or an interview under caution was deemed necessary.
Investigators are operating under Section 98 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which gives investigators all the powers of gardaí, including the power of arrest and the right to take any necessary samples, such as DNA, by force if necessary.
It is the first time the watchdog has arrested a garda, and is seen as a major step for GSOC, the effectiveness of which has been questioned in some quarters for the length of time some of its high-profile investigations have taken.
The body’s relationship with the force is also thought to be poor, with reports that GSOC is extremely unhappy with the level of co-operation it has received from the force in a number of investigations.
It emerged yesterday that the garda arrested had been suspended from the force by the Garda Commissioner. It is thought the suspension occurred after his arrested.
The garda was detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, and can be questioned for up to 24 hours.
If there is no evidence to corroborate the allegations, GSOC investigators will face a situation of one person’s word against another’s.
Investigators will send a report to the three-person board that runs GSOC, which will decide whether the evidence warrants sending a file to the DPP.
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