Garda granted leave to challenge disciplinary probe

A garda acquitted by a court of assaulting a prisoner has launched a High Court challenge aimed at preventing an internal Garda disciplinary probe into the same incident from going ahead.

Garda Thomas McKenna was acquitted in April 2013 at Waterford Circuit Court of assaulting Bartlomej Skwiru at Waterford Garda Station, while he was on duty, on the night of June 19-20, 2010. Mr Skwiru was in custody at the time.

The garda, who denied the charge, had been convicted at Waterford District Court in 2011 of assault causing harm to Mr Skwiru, a native of Poland. Garda McKenna, who is originally from Cork, and had been stationed in Waterford in 2010 successfully appealed that conviction.

Yesterday at the High Court, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told following his acquittal, Garda McKenna thought the matter was over. However, arising out of the same event, the Garda commissioner has brought internal disciplinary procedures against Garda McKenna.

Patrick McGrath, counsel for Garda McKenna, said his client, who been suspended for almost four years, wants the court to make orders preventing that disciplinary process from going ahead.

After the acquittal, his client had correspondence from GSOC, that the matter was concluded and that he would be “getting his uniform back”.

However, he was subsequently informed the commissioner intended to bring new internal Garda disciplinary proceedings, under the 2007 Garda Rules against Garda McKenna arising out of the incident.

Counsel said given the criminal proceedings have ended with an acquittal, the commissioner’s decision to launch an internal probe which could result in the garda’s dismissal from the force, is irrational, unfair and unreasonable.

A hearing into the matter is due to take place on Friday of this week, counsel said. Mr McGrath said his client, whose life has been “on hold” since his suspension, also has a legitimate expectation he would be allowed return to work once the criminal proceedings had been dispensed with.

Mr Justice Cross said he was satisfied to grant Garda McKenna permission to bring his challenge against the Garda commissioner.

Permission was granted on an ex-parte (one side only) basis. The judge who also placed a stay on the disciplinary hearings against Garda McKenna from going ahead pending the final outcome of his case, adjourned the mater to a date in October.

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