Tribunal told licensing law inspections shoud be 'quick'

Pub and nightclub inspections by gardai enforcing the liquor licensing law should be a quick-run strategy and not a prolonged exercise, the Morris Tribunal heard today.

Pub and nightclub inspections by gardai enforcing the liquor licensing law should be a quick-run strategy and not a prolonged exercise, the Morris Tribunal heard today.

Chief Superintendent John Kelly, an expert on licensing law enforcement, said there was no reason other than a citizen’s complaint for inspecting gardai to remain in a bar if they did not see drink being served after hours.

The tribunal is investigating claims Frank McBrearty Senior’s Donegal nightclub was targeted by gardai in the late 1990s for excessive inspections, sometimes lasting more than an hour, after his family were wrongly suspected in the killing of a local man.

Tribunal barrister Kathleen Leader asked of Supt Kelly if he was inspecting, would he remain on a premises if he thought drink would be served after gardai left.

He replied: “No I wouldn’t. Inspections should be a very quick run strategy.

“You are inspecting to see if the laws are being observed.

“I’ve seen it, I walk away.

“I don’t see any reason to stay behind.. unless there is something to warrant my time there.

“It’s a quick run strategy.

“You go in, you do something and you leave.”

He later added: “If we [gardai] formed that suspicion on every occasion, An Garda Siochana would be doing nothing but inspecting licensed premises.”

Cattle dealer Richie Barron was found dead along a road outside Raphoe in October 1996.

Frank McBrearty Junior and his cousin Mark McConnell were wrongly suspected by gardai of the death.

The McBreartys claim their extended family, their Raphoe nightclub and staff were the victims of orchestrated harassment by gardai over the killing.

It was later ruled an unsolved hit-and-run and the family cleared of any wrongdoing.

Mr McBrearty Snr maintains that from January 1997 onwards, gardai regularly inspected his business, sometimes two or three times nightly, when other premises in the town were being ignored.

The tribunal previously heard undercover gardai, some of whom were students, were sent into the club to catch staff selling drink after hours following a uniformed garda inspection.

But Chief Supt Kelly, who has advised various government committees on licensing laws, said once he saw the bar shutter closed and no evidence of drink being served, he would leave the premises.

“I wouldn’t go along the entrapment route,” he said.

The tribunal resumes tomorrow when former Taoiseach John Bruton will be questioned over claims he asked one of his TDs not to help the McBrearty’s battle to expose garda corruption.

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