Watchdog urged to apologise to gardaí cleared of charges

Rank-and-file gardaí are demanding the garda watchdog make a full apology to two of their colleagues who were charged with causing harm to a violent youth they were forced to subdue with pepper spray — and then had the charges against them dismissed.

After the two gardaí were cleared of any wrong-doing, GSOC (Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission) maintained there was no verdict delivered, which infuriated members of the Garda Representative Association (GRA).

It has now transpired that a verdict totally exonerating the two gardaí was written into the court records.

The records, seen by the Irish Examiner, clearly show that four days after the case against Garda Fiona Sheehan and Garda Brendan Dowling was thrown out, court documents signed by the District Court Clerk state: ‘It is ordered that the said complaint be dismissed.’

On January 6 last, Judge Olann Kelleher, sitting in Cork District Court, heard that the gardaí had demonstrated extraordinary restraint in the way they handled the 16-year-old boy who was the ringleader of a violent attack by a gang on Paul Street Shopping Centre on May 2, 2012. Even the boy’s own mother described him as “an absolute gurrier of the highest order”.

The case was brought after GSOC received a complaint against the gardaí and passed it onto the DPP. Retired judge Michael Pattwell later said he was amazed it ever reached court and criticised the State for refusing the pay the €14,000 legal costs incurred by the two gardaí.

GRA central executive committee member Garda Michael Corcoran demanded a full retraction yesterday of the statement by GSOC after the case on January 6.

“I also demand a full apology for any stress, anguish and ridicule which attached to the two members as a result of that statement, and an acknowledgement that the statement was incorrect in tenor and intent and was deliberately misleading for anybody reading it,” Garda Corcoran said.

He said that GSOC members had attended the January 6 court hearing and should clearly have heard there was no foundation to the charges. Garda Corcoran added that GSOC could easily have checked the subsequent court record which showed the verdict was dismissal.

Shortly after the case was thrown out of court, GSOC decided to initiate disciplinary proceedings under Section 95 of Garda Siochána Act 2005 against the two gardaí. “I also call on them, in light of the now-published judgment, to discontinue the Section 95 investigation as it represents a double jeopardy for the two members.

GSOC issued a statement yesterday said it would “not be commenting on this matter at this time”.

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