Gardaí issue plea for doctors to carry out vital investigation work

GARDAÍ can’t get doctors to come to police stations to do crucial work such as taking samples from suspected drunk drivers and treating rape victims, a garda conference heard yesterday.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) decided also to raise the “unacceptable” conditions for prisoners in cells with the European Commissioner on Human Rights unless action was taken.

The AGSI annual conference, held in Killarney, Co Kerry, passed a motion calling for suitably qualified personnel to be available to gardaí on a 24-hour basis nationwide.

Proposing the motion, Pat Joe McCarthy of the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) south central, said it was “impossible in many cases” to get doctors.

He said this happened in rape investigations, in order to examine victims and take samples, and in road traffic cases, where samples are needed.

He said there were at most three doctors willing to do the work for the whole of Dublin, but the problem was bad nationwide.

“Some doctors go out of their way to help guards but the numbers are getting smaller and it is becoming physically impossible for a doctor to do garda work on a 24-hour basis,” said Mr McCarthy.

“Younger doctors are not becoming involved. We’re dealing with some men that have retired, that come out, but there is no young doctor prepared to have the hassle of being on call for a 24-hour basis, 365 days a year.”

He said some doctors had been viciously assaulted while treating or examining suspects in custody.

“You need a panel, a large panel, of doctors to be available in all towns and all cities.”

David Forde of Cavan/Monaghan branch called for cells in garda stations which would accommodate only one prisoner.

He said in his area and across the northern region, cells with one bed were housing up to 12 prisoners at weekends, with no shower or toilet facilities.

He said rows developed between prisoners over the bed. Some prisoners could be held for up to seven days on drug trafficking offences.

“That’s with no ventilation, no wash facilities, no shower or shaving facilities, nothing. It’s not acceptable for prisoners to be detained in that condition.”

Mr Forde said that if no action was taken, the matter should be raised with the European Commission.

He said civil actions have been taken by prisoners and further actions were likely. The motion was carried.

The conference also passed a motion calling on nightclubs to be obliged to only use plastic containers instead of bottles or glasses in order to reduce “horrendous injuries”.

The motion, from the Cork City branch, was passed.

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