Supreme Court overturns garda’s dismissal

Drumshanbo in Leitrim may seem “a tidy, quiet, and even sleepy place” but “certainly was not such” around 3.30am one Sunday in September when a Garda claimed to find several people drinking in Monica’s pub, sparking off events ultimately leading to his dismissal, a Supreme Court judge said yesterday as he overturned that dismissal.

Monica McGourty, wife of Paddy McGourty, the proprietor of Monica’s pub, became so incensed after Garda John Kelly spoke to the couple that she walked around the town and sat outside another bar apparently to make the point that other pubs were still operating at that hour, Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell noted.

Garda Kelly, stationed at Drumshanbo, had served 27 years in the force before his dismissal on Aug 2011, arising from an inquiry into allegations of misconduct against him connected with the incident.

Yesterday, the three-judge Supreme Court granted his appeal against the High Court’s rejection of his challenge to that dismissal.

The court ruled a Garda board of inquiry failed to give reasons for recommending his dismissal and directed it must give him those reasons before his fresh appeal against the recommended dismissal, to be conducted in line with the court’s findings.

Neither the board of inquiry nor an appeals board had explained their respective decisions in favour of dismissal “in even the most rudimentary way“, Mr Justice O’Donnell said.

The “remarkable” fact was Garda Kelly was dismissed after the appeals board applied some unknown test to facts which remain unclear, the judge said. Garda Kelly did not know what view the board of inquiry took of the facts, nor did he know what the appeals board thought the inquiry had decided concerning the facts.

Garda Kelly also does not know why the appeals board concluded in Mar 2012 that his appeal was so lacking in substance it could be dismissed without any hearing, the judge said. It was “difficult to square” all of this with Garda regulations to ensure a “manifestly fair” procedure.

The regulations require that reasons be given for any determination by a board of inquiry unless issues were self-evident, he ruled. That was not the case here.

Earlier, setting out the background, the judge said a taxi was outside Monica’s pub at about 3.30am on Sunday, Sept 20, 2009, waiting for customers inside, when Garda Kelly approached. This was two weeks after Mr McGourty was convicted, following a prosecution initiated by Garda Kelly, in the district court of having people on the premises after licensing hours.

That same day, Garda Kelly entered details on the Garda PULSE system indicating he conducted an after-hours inspection of Monica’s where he found Mr McGourty, his wife, and several customers. He made a formal statement a week later.

In Nov 2009, his statement was given to a local Sergeant, Sergeant Fahy, with a view to a further prosecution of Mr McGourty. Correspondence between the two men made clear their relationship was not good, the judge said.

A board of inquiry later upheld six allegations of misconduct against Garda Kelly, including falsehood in statements provided by him. Garda Kelly’s appeal against that decision was dismissed without a hearing after the appeals board described the grounds of appeal as “without substance”.

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