Discipline has not broken down, say gardaí

THE gardaí totally reject any allegation that discipline within the ranks has broken down and said for years the organisation has dealt with wrongdoing by members.

But, in a statement from Garda headquarters, a spokesman said the allegations by former Judge Anthony Murphy that members committed perjury in his court over the years were extremely serious and of concern to the Commissioner Noel Conroy.

The commissioner added that he welcomes the introduction of the new investigative body proposed under the Garda Bill 2003.

Gardaí alleged to have acted improperly face examinations of their conduct from a series of panels, both internally and externally.

They face internal disciplinary action, investigation by the Garda Complaints Board, criminal charges or civil action. It is the most heavily policed institution in the State, it is argued, in response to claims that some members have been able to act improperly without facing any consequences.

Since 1996, 26 gardaí whose conduct in the course of their duties was found to be unacceptable have been constructively dismissed. Nearly 100 members have faced criminal charges in recent years, from driving offences to possession of child pornography. This, members claim, reveals gardaí have no problems investigating and prosecuting their own.

Assistant Commissioner Nacie Rice, on Prime Time last night, admitted members make mistakes but they give their all and try their best all the time.

The vast majority do carry out to the best of their ability a tough and thankless job few would be prepared to do. The basic pay is not great, with the average experienced beat garda paid just over €30,000 a year.

For that money, and overtime, they can be called upon to carry out acts of outstanding bravery.

Two recent examples highlight the potential dangers of the job. After publican Charlie Chawke was robbed and shot by two armed men, three unarmed gardaí gave chase and came under fire. The two robbers were eventually caught.

In another incident, two unarmed gardaí came face to face with two raiders who had robbed a store.

A shotgun was pointed at the gardaí, but they held their ground and forced the pair to abandon their getaway vehicle, a high powered motorcycle. The robbers hijacked a passing car but were chased and eventually caught.

Nearly 1,000 assaults against gardaí are report every year, including a number of very serious attacks. Every year, hundreds of members are awarded compensation for injuries and trauma suffered.

Nearly 5,000 claims have been made over the last decade, with the State paying out over €70m; the average payout in recent years is around €60,000.

In one compensation case late last year, the High Court heard how a garda was forced to retire after suffering what a consultant psychiatrist described as one of the worst cases of posttraumatic stress disorder the doctor had ever dealt with. In the line of duty, the garda had to confront and take down a 17-stone machete wielding maniac.

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