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GSOC issues Corrib report

Carl O'Brien - Irish Times

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission  has recommended that disciplinary proceedings be taken against one of the gardai who was investigated over taped remarks about two female Corrib gas protesters last year.

In its report published today, the Ombudman states that another Garda - a sergeant - who spoke about raping the women has retired from the force and is not subject to disciplinary proceedings.

Three other gardai present at the time of the remarks were exonerated in an interim report last year.

Under Garda discipline regulations, the Garda Commissioner has a number of options available to him, including a warning, reprimand or reduction in pay. The Garda Ombudsman has no powers to impose penalties or sanctions.

The Garda Ombudsman initiated its investigation in April last year after the release of a digital recording in which several gardaí joked about threatening to rape and deport one of two women arrested on public order offences near the Corrib gas project.

An interim report issued last July confirmed the recording had taken place when five gardaí were travelling in a vehicle separate to that transporting the two female protesters to Belmullet Garda station.

A camcorder confiscated from the protesters had been left switched on in a garda’s jacket pocket.

The interim report exonerated three of the five gardaí and found no evidence of criminal offence by any of the five. However, it found that two others may have a disciplinary case to answer over comments they made.

Today’s report states that all four gardaí confirmed that the use of the word “rape” during this conversation was by their sergeant.

A second member of the force was identified as making comments about the women being deported and inferring that they may be carrying a disease of some description after staying in the “crusty camp”.

The report also refers to a dispute between the Garda Ombudsman and members of staff at the NUI Maynooth in relation to deleted files on the camcorder.

After being requested to hand over the camcorder to the Ombudsman, one of the protesters - identified by staff as postgraduate student Jerrie Ann Sullivan - advised that the device also contained confidential information relating to her studies.

Through a solicitor, she suggested that files could be deleted by someone from the university - under the supervision of the Ombudsman - prior to handing over the device.

However, the Ombudsman warned that any level of interference with an exhibit central to an ongoing criminal investigation had the potential to render the evidence inadmissible.

No agreement was reached and academic staff at the university subsequently deleted the files, claiming they had no bearing on the investigation.

The Ombudsman later interviewed a member of staff under caution in relation to possible offences of attempting to pervert the course of justice. In the end, the Ombudsman decided not to send a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Overall, the Ombudman's report states that the events in Co Mayo were very public and had the potential to "undermine public confidence in the Garda Siochána".

It says it was conscious that "events such as these can be a cause of distress and hopes that this report will bring some measure of comfort to those affected”.

It also welcomes reassurances a public pledge by the Garda Commissioner last year that all victims of sexual crime would be met with compassion and sensitivity.

“The Ombudsman Commission offers its reassurance to the public and to serving gardaí that proportionate and fair investigation of events such as this is conducted in an independent manner, in the public interest,” the report states.

In a statement, NUI Maynooth said it abides by the law, and prioritises the safety and welfare of its staff and students. “NUI Maynooth abides by the law at all times, it upholds and supports the process of statutory bodies, and complied fully with its obligations in relation to this investigation,” a spokeswoman said.

Posted Date: 
24 April 2012