In the line of fire: gardaí accused of torture and lying

GARDAÍ have been accused by a Government minister of torturing a man in their custody and of lying in a judge’s courtroom.

Minister of State for European Affairs Dick Roche and retired Circuit Court judge Anthony Murphy make the allegations during interviews to be broadcast on RTÉ tonight.

Mr Roche described as “tantamount to torture” a beating allegedly inflicted on a young man in a garda station, while Judge Murphy has accused members of lying in his courtroom.

Mr Roche, a Wicklow TD, described meeting a constituent shortly after the young man was released from a garda station.

“He had injuries to his head. He had injuries to his body. He had bruises and had a dreadfully nasty injury right under his chin. I said: ‘How did you get this?’ ... I mean this was tantamount to torture of a young man,” he told Prime Time.

Speaking last night, the minister said he still believes it was torture. “One person sits on your head as the others batter you while you are on the ground. What would you call it?”

The young man was prosecuted, but the judge threw the case out, stating he had substantial doubts about the evidence of the gardaí.

The Prime Time Investigates programme probes allegations of assault and abuse of power by some gardaí and includes first-hand accounts from people who claim to have been assaulted by members.

It also investigates questions over evidence given by gardaí in court and looks at how confessions are obtained in custody.

Judge Murphy said: “There have been occasions when the guards have committed perjury in my court.”

A garda spokesman said last night: “If people make assertions in relation to the behaviour of the gardaí and who are in position to have these matters dealt with ... the question has to be asked, was this done?

“Did you have these matters investigated by the Director of Public Prosecutions?”

The retired judge also comments on the case of Gráinne and Ciara Walsh, sisters who were assaulted by members of the gardaí in April 1998 and who won damages and an apology in the High Court.

“There was no disciplinary action whatsoever taken against them (gardaí) four-and-a-half years on. And that is a disgrace on any reading of it. That is a total disgrace,” Judge Murphy said.

Following the conclusion of the case in July 2002, a chief superintendent was appointed to investigate. His report was passed on to the then Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne, who decided not to initiate disciplinary action against the members involved. He took into account the fact no complaint was made to the Garda Complaints Board and because of the lapse of time. New procedures were, however, introduced after the case.

Allegations made by the young man Mr Roche refers to were investigated by both the gardaí and the complaints board. The DPP recommended no prosecutions, while the board was satisfied there was no breach of discipline. The minister said the investigation was derisory.

Assistant Commissioner Nacie Rice tells Prime Time: “Yes, we are human. Yes, we are frail. Yes, we make mistakes. We acknowledge that. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t give our best and try our best all the time.”

The Garda Complaints Board has publicly acknowledged its weaknesses when it comes to investigating the gardaí. Members have called for the speedy establishment of an independent inspectorate with investigative powers.

A Department of Justice spokesman said last night the Garda Bill, which includes measures to establish the inspectorate, will be published later this month or early in February. Justice officials want the bill to be signed into law by the end of the year.

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