Gardaí ‘withheld information’ in Clare Daly inquiry

Claims by the Garda Ombudsman that it has been denied access to information by gardaí in serious investigations includes their inquiry into a complaint from Clare Daly TD, the Irish Examiner understands.

Gardaí ‘withheld information’ in  Clare Daly inquiry

The north Dublin deputy lodged a complaint with the commission last February in connection with her arrest for suspected drink driving and the leaking of that incident to the media.

In a separate case, the police watchdog claimed that the gardaí denied it access to information in relation to an investigation into a serious sexual assault on a minor.

The incidents are among eight cases highlighted by the commission at the launch of their 2012 annual report yesterday.

While there was no mention of Deputy Daly, the Irish Examiner understands that one case relates to her.

Simon O’Brien, chairman of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, strongly criticised the Garda Síochána for its level of cooperation — criticisms strongly rejected by Commissioner Martin Callinan.

Mr O’Brien said in three of most serious cases the gardaí stated they were not handing over the information because it was “not relevant”.

He said it was not acceptable for the force to be telling it — an independent State investigative body — what was relevant or not.

Mr O’Brien, a former senior officer in the London Met, where he served for 32 years, said the protocol agreed between GSOC and the gardaí for the exchange of information was “not working”.

“We had hoped today in announcing our report that we could have spoken about these issues in the past tense, unfortunately, we are still experiencing some significant issues,” said Mr O’Brien.

He said the commission did not take satisfaction in going public, adding: “We wouldn’t be calling publicly if there wasn’t an issue of scale in this problem.”

Mr O’Brien said there was a 30-day deadline agreed in the protocol for the handing over of documentation and that there were no exceptions. He said there was a “consistent problem” and in one case they waited 542 days.

The comments come against the background of a significant reduction in the number of serious allegations referred to GSOC by the Garda commissioner involving death or serious harm possibly involving a garda, and a fall in the number of complaints by members of the public.

Referrals from the commissioner to GSOC fell from 103 in 2010, to 90 in 2011 and to 72 in 2012 — a 30% drop in two years. Complaints from the public fell by 8%, from 2,275 to 2,089.

Mr O’Brien also complained of an “unacceptable” delay in the investigation of more minor complaints, which are passed from GSOC to gardaí for investigation, under their supervision. He said that of the 567 such investigations, 414 (73%) were over the 12-week time limit and that 21 (4%) were more than two years old.

Mr O’Brien said his personal contact with the commissioner was “excellent” and that some progress has been made, but not enough.

Cases highlighted

- GSOC sought copies of Garda reports and statements pertaining to the arrest and detention of a complainant (understood by the Irish Examiner to be Clare Daly TD) The request was made in February 2013 and some information was provided. In April, the Garda Síochána sent a letter stating that the requested material was “not relevant” to the admitted complaint and that no documentation from the Garda file was being supplied. GSOC said the information was “clearly and obviously relevant”. It said the refusal took 48 days.

- GSOC requested information regarding the identities of gardaí who may have spoken to a woman who had made a complaint relating to an allegation of historic serious sexual assault of a minor. They sought any records and any CCTV from the two stations the woman went to. The gardaí said the requested information was not relevant to the admitted complaint and would not be provided. GSOC said: “The gravity of the allegations alone should have dictated that the AGS would want to provide every assistance.”

- GSOC sought information in connection with a complicated criminal inquiry in March 2012. The following month the gardaí wrote back stating they were at a loss as to the relevance of the documentation and requested GSOC to set out its reasons for the items. GSOC said that following protracted correspondence with gardaí they obtained access in March 2013.

- GSOC sought documentation in December 2012 of a routine nature in relation to an allegation of assault. The documentation was not received until May 2013.

- GSOC sought similar information, again in December 2012, in relation to an alleged assault, and did not receive it until last March.

- Gardaí were due to complete a final report in November 2010 into an allegation that a garda pushed a man against a wall. It has still to be concluded.

- Gardaí were due to finish a final report in August 2010 regarding a complaint that a man was allegedly grabbed and pushed against a wall. It is yet to be concluded.

- Gardaí were due to complete a final report in November 2011 in relation to the seizure of a vehicle. It has yet to be concluded.

- Full report on gsoc.ie

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