Shamed detective hits out at Tribunal's 'perverse' findings

Suspended Detective Sergeant John White tonight claimed the Morris Tribunal’s finding that he is corrupt is perverse and insisted his acquittal in court proved his innocence.

Suspended Detective Sergeant John White tonight claimed the Morris Tribunal’s finding that he is corrupt is perverse and insisted his acquittal in court proved his innocence.

Mr Justice Frederick Morris said the shamed officer deliberately planted a dangerous shotgun where children played on a halting site in Burnfoot in May 1998 to secure the arrest of seven travellers.

He said it was a shocking act.

But Det Sgt White said he could not understand how anyone drew such scathing conclusions and insisted his name had been cleared by a jury of his peers.

The judge found Det Sgt White planted an explosive, or had someone do it for him, on a telecommunications mast near Ardara which led to three local people being arrested.

He said Det Sgt White’s evidence to the tribunal was riddled with inconsistencies and branded him a liar.

“I think these findings are perverse, Judge Morris’s findings are perverse. I do not know how he could possibly come to that conclusion,” he said.

“There is absolutely no collaboration whatsoever.”

Det Sgt White said he wanted to study the reports in full and added: “Certainly it leaves me in the position where I have no further regard whatsoever for the Morris Tribunal.”

The judge found no evidence that the once highly respected officer conspired with a petty criminal to make up a death threat, the Silver Bullet allegation, against Raphoe men Mark McConnell and Michael Peoples.

Det Sgt White has twice been vindicated in court. He was cleared by a jury in July of possession of a firearm over the Burnfoot incident following a month-long trial in Letterkenny.

And in February 2005 he was acquitted, by direction of the trial judge, of attempting to pervert the course of justice and making false statements over the Silver Bullet threat.

No charges have been brought over the Ardara affair. The judge added that the arrests over the explosive were based on a false premise.

Michael McDowell, Justice Minister, insisted the verdicts from the criminal trial still stand regardless of the tribunal findings.

But he explained that Judge Morris had used the balance of probabilities, examined an array of evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, and considered the testimony and acts of Det Sgt White over weeks and months of hearings before coming to such damning conclusions.

“The verdict stands in criminal justice. But by the same token the very, very strong findings on the balance of probabilities is that Sergeant White was responsible for a number of very grave infringements of people’s rights,” Mr McDowell said.

The minister also revealed Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy would decide Det Sgt White’s fate. Mr McDowell said while he did not want to pre-empt the Commissioner’s decision there was more than enough evidence for action to be taken.

But the officer’s lawyer, Paudge Dorrian, said the findings of the inquiry had cast huge questions on the entire criminal justice system.

“We are entitled to our badge of innocence, the Supreme Court has so declared, and I cannot see that any adverse findings to the findings of the judge and the judge and jury would be valid,” he said.

“The court of law is the highest standard and we were acquitted, that means we have a declaration of innocence. Is the whole criminal justice system going to be superseded by opinions based on hearsay and innuendo and rumour?”

Det Sgt White applied to retire from the force in April, ahead of his trial on firearms offences, but he was turned down.

The officer was originally suspended in 2000 on foot of corruption allegations arising from Burnfoot. That suspension ended when he was cleared in July, but he was immediately put on a new suspension over a separate matter.

The lawyer said the internal investigation into corruption allegations headed by former Assistant Commissioner Kevin Carty in 1999 had been shown to be flawed and faulty through two separate court cases.

He said it bears no reality to the truth and called on top brass in the force to consider their future.

“During the course of the Morris Tribunal we were not allowed to question the Carty report,” he said.

“It’s quite clear that if the top people of An Garda Siochana the Commissioner [Noel Conroy] and assistant commissioners and maybe even going as far as the DPP and Minister for Justice that they should all look at their situation and consider retiring.”

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