State to pay part of shamed garda's legal costs

A suspended garda sergeant heavily criticised in three Morris Tribunal reports will have part of his legal costs covered by the state, it emerged today.

A suspended garda sergeant heavily criticised in three Morris Tribunal reports will have part of his legal costs covered by the state, it emerged today.

Detective Sergeant John White, who is still suspended from the force, was shamed in the reports that rocked the force when published last summer.

Mr Justice Frederick Morris, tribunal chairman, has granted White half his costs for the Silver Bullet module and 10% for the Burnfoot module.

He will get nothing in connection with the Ardara module.

In relation to each of the reports, the tribunal found the suspended officer had placed a state witness in a nightclub after hours, planted a gun on a halting site and arranged for a bogus explosive to be placed on a telecommunications mast.

“There was a substantial failure on the part of Det. Sgt White to co-operate with and provide assistance to the tribunal, which sought the truth on these matters,” said Justice Morris, of the Burnfoot Report.

Total costs for legal teams representing An Garda Síochána and the Minister for Justice at the tribunal have now exceed €7.3m, according to figures released by Tánaiste Michael McDowell to the Dáil.

It includes €6.1m for lawyers for the Garda Commissioner, €547,173 for the minister’s own legal team and €609,538 paid to solicitors for the Garda Representative Association.

Criticising the mounting fees, Fine Gael’s Jim Higgins, said: “The sheer scale of the legal bills underlines the manifestly unjust treatment of the McBrearty family, who are expected to appear before the tribunal without any legal representation because of a dispute over payment of their legal costs.”

Despite being acquitted twice in Circuit Court trials of planting the gun, the tribunal chairman said Det. Sgt White had manipulated people and events in the Silver Bullet module.

Det. Sgt White is officially still a serving member of An Garda Síochána but has been suspended from active duty for years.

No costs were awarded to former Sligo garda John Nicholson, who was found to have lied to the tribunal and forged signatures on a number of false expenses claims.

The chairman said Nicholson remained evasive throughout the hearing, telling half truths about important events.

He is the only member who has been successfully prosecuted as a result of the Carty Inquiry, after pleading guilty to uttering forged documents. He received the Probation Act.

Mr Nicholson had alleged the dead man had been involved in the procurement of false certificates of earnings in respect of Bernard Conlon by John Nicholson,

Widow Kathleen Keogh, who appeared in relation to allegations concerning her late husband Garda John Keogh, will receive full costs.

Full costs were awarded to seven Travellers who were arrested following the discovery of a shotgun at a decampment which, the tribunal previously ruled, was planted by Det. Sgt White close to the Derry border in May 1997.

Mr Justice Morris said the men – Thomas Collins, Timothy Collins, John Casey, John McCann, Michael McCann, Bernard Power and David Power – had been unlawfully deprived of their liberty.

The Burnfoot module concluded those arrested were the subject of racist abuse.

Det. Sgt White was awarded 10% towards his legal costs because of his cooperation with the tribunal and assistance he gave in the provision of documents at the preparatory stage of its work.

For the third report published during the summer, the tribunal found that Det. Sgt White was refused any costs on the grounds he was aware, before anyone had officially discovered it, that a bogus explosive device had been placed on a telecommunications mast in Ardara, Co Donegal, in late 1996.

“The tribunal was satisfied that all of the arrests for the explosive device were based upon a false premise and founded on the wrongdoing of Sgt White,” added Mr Morris.

In the current module, the shamed garda has admitted mistreating two sisters, Katrina Brolly and Roisin McConnell, during their detention in December 1996 in relation to the death of cattle dealer Richie Barron.

In the Silver Bullet module, full costs were awarded to Inspector Gerard Connolly, Sergeant Sarah Hargadon, and William Flynn, a private investigator hired by the McBrearty family.

In all three modules, costs were granted for limited representation by The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors and The Garda Representative Association.

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