32 gardaí found guilty of discipline breaches

MORE than 30 gardaí were found guilty of serious breaches of discipline over the past 18 months, according to a Garda watchdog.

One of these officers was dismissed from the force — a decision later reversed on appeal — while another officer had to resign — a decision being appealed.

The Garda Síochána Complaints Board 2007 annual report said there was a total of 26 cases of serious breaches of discipline, involving 32 gardaí, in 2007 and the first half of 2008.

In addition to the 26 cases, a further 17 cases were referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions where the board felt a possible criminal offence had been committed. It is not thought any of these cases resulted in a prosecution.

The report said 34 cases of suspected serious breaches of discipline were referred to the GSCB complaints tribunal in 2007. Complaints board deputy chief executive John Lohan said this was a “record high” and compared with 25 cases in 2006 and 22 in 2005.

Board chairman Gordon Holmes said this did not necessarily mean the behaviour of certain gardaí had worsened, rather it reflected greater thoroughness by Garda officers investigating the complaints.

Given there were more than 14,000 gardaí, Mr Holmes said the increase in the number of cases before the tribunal was “very small”.

In what he described as an “obituary” for the board, Mr Holmes said the Garda Síochána was in a “stronger position” than it had been for many years.

The board stopped taking complaints in May 2007, when its job was taken over by the Garda Ombudsman Commission.

“Donegal was a terrible blight on their reputation, but they have dealt with it forcefully and it’s a credit to Garda management,” said Mr Holmes.

“The gardaí is working its way very, very well towards regaining its position in the public esteem. Every organisation is open to corruption, so we have to be vigilant.”

Mr Holmes criticised the Ombudsman Commission for publicly stating that gardaí had to wait up to 18 months with an allegation hanging over them under the board.

He criticised the commission for failing to retract the statement after the board brought it to their attention.

The annual report said that of the 600 cases examined in 2007, half were deemed inadmissible. In turn, half of inadmissible complaints were considered vexatious.

The tribunal found no breach of discipline in 240 cases in 2007, while 47 cases of minor breaches of discipline were referred to the Garda commissioner. A further 34 cases were referred to the complaints tribunal. Reasons for breaches

* Five gardaí were found in breach of discipline for abuse of authority, neglect of duty and discourtesy during the arrest of a juvenile. Penalties included reprimand and reduction in pay. One member was required to resign.

* A Garda was dismissed from the force for abuse of authority and discreditable conduct after stopping a motorist at a checkpoint.

* A Garda was found in breach of discipline for abuse of authority for using excessive force involving a baton. A second Garda had his pay reduced for sneering.

* A Garda had four weeks’ pay taken away for abuse of authority in using unreasonable force on a complainant.

* A Garda was reprimanded and had his pay reduced for abuse of authority in using excessive force on a complainant by striking him with a baton causing injuries to his body and leg.

* A Garda was reprimanded for failing to investigate an alleged assault on a complainant.

* A Garda was cautioned and docked 12 weeks’ pay for discreditable conduct and abuse of authority relating to a road traffic incident.

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