GSOC probe was one-sided, says judge

A judge yesterday described a GSOC investigation into a road traffic accident, involving an off-duty garda in 2013, as “one of the most one-sided I have ever seen”.

Judge Kevin Kilrane yesterday told Sligo District Court GSOC had “ignored” vital evidence, and the way they “carried out their function was quite disgraceful”.

He upheld a court costs order in favour of a Co Westmeath couple, Maeve and Fintan O’Brien from Castletown-Geoghegan, Mullingar, who were charged with giving false and misleading information to a GSOC officer in May 2013.

The judge rejected an application from Sligo state solicitor Hugh Sheridan to vacate his previous order and re-affirmed his order made last July.

Judge Kilrane said that GSOC’s “fingerprints were all over the investigation” and he was minded to make an order for costs accordingly.

The charge arose from an incident near Mullingar in June 2011 when a car driven by Ms O’Brien was involved in a collision with a vehicle driven by off-duty garda Mark Kenny, who had been accompanied by a colleague Garda Ciaran McCormack.

Judge Kilrane yesterday commented that one garda’s evidence was “appalling and misleading” when he claimed he had searched the road after the accident.

The judge also noted the State had requested an adjournment, at a previous hearing, to prevent any further embarrassment. Ms O’Brien had testified her car was stationary when struck by the approaching car. The garda and his colleague also claimed their vehicle had been stopped when struck by the accused. Both cars had been written off.

Counsel for the accused Keith O’Grady told the court the case was essentially “a swearing match, two versus two”.

Prosecuting counsel, Joe Barnes, applied for a nolle prosequi after Judge Kilrane said he would not hear evidence from expert witness Colm Finn for GSOC, who has visited the scene over two years after the crash.

Following the State application, Judge Kilrane said he was glad that GSOC was adopting a certain attitude because to say he was unimpressed with the evidence so far would be an understatement. The judge said he was now saved from saying what he would have said about garda witnesses “whose purpose was to mislead and not to assist”.

During the earlier hearing, a GSOC investigator confirmed that he had not received contemporaneous Garda notes or a sketch map from officers who had investigated the crash. Judge Kilrane told the court it struck him that this was leaving the matter “twisting in the wind”.

The court heard the couple had been celebrating their wedding anniversary on the night of the crash. They had a row and Mr O’Brien had “stormed off”. Ms O’Brien said she had followed her husband in the car and had just stopped to pick him up when the collision occurred.

Her legs were trapped for some time in the car and she was later taken by ambulance to Mullingar Hospital. Mr O’Brien said the garda’s car was on the wrong side of the road when it drove into their vehicle.

The judge was told Garda Kenny had been breathalysed at the scene and there had been a zero reading.

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