Delay in probing complaint breached rights, Garda chief agrees

The Garda Commissioner has consented to a High Court declaration that a delay of more than two years in investigating a council worker’s complaint against a garda breached the man’s rights to fair procedures and prompt decision.

Stephen McNamee complained in June 2011 to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, which notified his solicitor eight weeks later that the complaint had been referred to the commission for investigation by a senior garda, in accordance with an agreed protocol.

In August 2013, after considerable correspondence by his solicitor, Gareth Noble, a decision on the complaint was notified to Mr McNamee, who argued that period was well outside the recommended 12 weeks.

The notification was made shortly after Mr McNamee initiated High Court proceedings against both the GSOC and the commissioner alleging the delay breached his rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr McNamee alleged delay by the commissioner in having the matter investigated and delay by GSOC on grounds including alleged failure to supervise and monitor the investigation and failure to take over the investigation itself.

When the proceedings came before Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill yesterday, he was told the commissioner was consenting to a declaration that the delay by the respondents, or either of them, investigating the complaint breached Mr McNamee’s constitutionally protected right to fair procedures and/or constitutionally guaranteed right to a prompt decision.

In those circumstances, Siobhán Phelan, for GSOC, argued the case should not proceed against her client but Niall Nolan BL, for Mr McNamee, said his side was maintaining its case against GSOC.

The judge made the declaration as consented to by the commissioner. The case against the GSOC was adjourned for mention in two weeks’ time.

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