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Watchdog: 'No grounds' for criminal case in Corrib gas 'rape-tape' furore

Irish Examiner

The Garda watchdog has urged the force’s chief to take disciplinary action against one officer over an investigation into the “rape tape” controversy.

But James Gill, the sergeant found to have made remarks about two female protesters arrested at a controversial Shell gas project at Erris, Co Mayo will escape any action because he recently retired.

The Garda Ombudsman said there were no grounds for any criminal case, based on the available evidence, against any of the five officers involved in the incident on March 31 last year.

They were investigated for potential criminal offences, under misconduct in public office laws, after a pocket video camera seized from one of two arrested female demonstrators inadvertently recorded the sergeant afterwards in a patrol car joking about raping them.

The remarks were made public by one of the protesters, Jerrie Ann Sullivan, who was handed back the digital camera after her release. The second woman, believed to be a US citizen, did not wish to be named.

The ombudsman investigation found four rank-and-file gardai involved gave “full and frank” accounts when interviewed under caution, and all four confirmed the “rape” remarks were made by Sgt Gill.

However, the sergeant exercised his right to silence throughout his questioning and “largely gave a ’no-comment’ interview”, it was found.

But when claims by a garda detective present during the arrests that one of the women might first have used the word “rape” were put to him, he said he had heard the word used at the scene but could not say by whom or whether it was by a man or a woman.

That allegation could not be corroborated because sound quality on Garda footage of the arrests was too poor.

While two officers were found to have no case to answer, a third had the case against him dropped because of a lack of evidence.

Another, referred to as Garda B, had a “more active” role in the taped conversation, the watchdog found.

During the remarks about raping one of the women, Garda B was identified as having said: “I wouldn’t go that far yet, she was living down at that crusty camp. F***’s sake, you never know what you might get.”

The comments related to the Rossport Solidarity Camp and inferred the women may be carrying a disease of some sort, the watchdog report said.

Garda B was also heard to remark “we’ll get immigration f***ing on her”, joking about the Garda National Immigration Bureau deporting her after another officer said she sounded like a “Yank or Canadian”.

The watchdog has sent a report to Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, recommending disciplinary proceedings against Garda B.

Both he and Sgt Gill were invited to make submissions or give evidence to the ombudsman on possible disciplinary action but they declined.

Because the sergeant retired on November 1 last year, he is no longer subject to disciplinary procedures and the case against him was dropped.

Investigators could not establish whether or not another garda officer involved had used the word “rape” during the conversation and inquires around him were also dropped.

“He offered another explanation during interview which was considered plausible and which was accepted in the absence of any additional information to the contrary,” the report found.

The Garda Ombudsman said it was satisfied that two of the garda officers had no involvement in the conversation whatsoever and were simply present when it took place.

No action against NUI Maynooth

The Ombudsman said it was not recommending any action against NUI Maynooth academics behind the deletion of some files on the video camera which captured the remarks.

Files were removed from the university-owned device, which had been borrowed by one of the arrested women, before being handed over to the watchdog because they were confidential and had no bearing on the investigation, academics said.

The Ombudsman had insisted only it could determine that, but later said it was of the view that the main recording of the remarks was not tampered with in any way.

Although one academic was questioned under caution about the incident, the Ombudsman said it has decided not to send any report the Director of Public Prosecutions.

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