Commission of Investigation to be established following Guerin Report

Friday 09 May 2014 22.00
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Frances Fitzgerald said the Government is taking steps to remedy systemic failings
Frances Fitzgerald said the Government is taking steps to remedy systemic failings
Seán Guerin was asked to examine allegations that serious crimes were not investigated properly
Seán Guerin was asked to examine allegations that serious crimes were not investigated properly
Sgt Maurice McCabe said he felt vindicated by the report
Sgt Maurice McCabe said he felt vindicated by the report

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has said there will be a Commission of Investigation following the publication of the Guerin Report.

The report looked into allegations that serious crimes were not investigated properly by gardaí.

It found there is cause for concern as to the adequacy of the investigations into complaints by Sergeant Maurice McCabe and also for the personal and professional consequences for the whistleblower.

Ms Fitzgerald said the Government is taking steps to remedy what she said are systemic failings uncovered in the report.

Ms Fitzgerald said the Guerin Report is clear that operational policies and procedures within An Garda Síochána were inadequate in the cases examined.

She said this included performance and professional standards, consistency of approach, recording and management, and supervision of individual cases.

Ms Fitzgerald said the report raises fundamental questions about the treatment and response to victims of crime, which must be addressed as a matter of priority.

She welcomed the fact that acting Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan had recognised the need for a sea change in the force and she would be backing her in any changes she felt necessary.

The minister said the process of reform was already under way. 

Ms Fitzgerald said she views with the utmost gravity the concerns raised by Mr Guerin about procedures for dealing with complaints in the Department of Justice and she intends to ensure that the issues raised are dealt with comprehensively and robustly.

Asked if there might be resignations in her department, she said if root and branch changes were needed they would happen.

McCabe 'vindicated' after report's publication

Sgt McCabe has said he feels vindicated after the publication of the report.

He said a huge weight has been taken off his shoulders and that of his family.

Sgt McCabe said he wanted to go on record as the report has been issued.

He said he had not yet read all of the report, but he believes that what he has read concurs with what he has being saying about how his allegations were handled by gardaí and the Department of Justice.

Sgt McCabe also thanked Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin for handing his dossier to the Taosieach.

He said he is looking forward to co-operating with the Commission of Investigation and that his allegations are investigated.

Sgt McCabe said he can move on from today, but he also noted that he is still restricted in his use of the garda PULSE system.

Commissioner O'Sullivan has said gardaí will cooperate fully with the Commission of Investigation.

She said: "The report by Mr Sean Guerin SC is detailed and extensive.

"I am currently studying it closely in conjunction with my senior management team to identify immediate actions that can be taken as part of our process of change that is currently under way."

However, there was no reference in her statement to Sgt McCabe's access to the PULSE system.

Kenny says terms will be established in weeks

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the terms of reference for the Commission of Investigation will be finalised in the coming weeks.

Speaking in Co Galway this afternoon, Mr Kenny said nobody was immune from being brought before the law on issues of criminality. 

He said the recommendations and conclusions in the report would now be considered by the Government. 

Mr Kenny said the structure and way in which a Commission of Investigation would operate would be considered in the coming weeks.

He described the setting up of a commission as a "deep and far reaching process".

The Taoiseach said it was essential that the way in which justice was administered was dealt with as part of any part of garda reform.

Call for comprehensive commission of investigation

The Guerin inquiry was established to examine the actions taken by gardaí, the Department of Justice, the Minister for Justice and any other public body on the allegations by Sgt McCabe of garda misconduct.

The report also states that An Garda Síochána does not seem to have been able to hold heed to the voice of a man held in high regard by his immediate superiors.

It said a comprehensive commission of investigation needs to be established to investigate a number of incidents.

Disciplinary proceedings are recommended against a probationer garda.

The report found the effectiveness of the PULSE system should be reviewed.

In his conclusions, Mr Guerin said that in An Garda Síochána "a critical voice is in danger of being heard as a contrary voice".

"The paradigm of the whistleblower is an unattractive one ... is seen as someone who is not on the team," he said.

He said the challenge of "accommodating and learning from legitimate criticism is always going to be a difficult one, especially in a disciplined force".

The report said the complaints made by Sgt McCabe "all have their origin in what he perceived to be a failure" of An Garda Síochána in the Bailieboro district "to apply itself with discipline and determination to the investigation and prosecution of crime".

The report said it is beyond its scope to make any determination of the complaints made by Sgt McCabe.

However, it said the documents examined "give cause to share the concern expressed in them".

It said there is cause for concern as to the adequacy of the investigations that have taken place into Sgt McCabe's complaints and whether "all appropriate steps" have been taken.

Mr Guerin said Sgt McCabe co-operated with the review in an "unfailingly courteous and obliging manner".

Mr Guerin said he interviewed the sergeant on four separate occasions, totalling just under 19 hours.

He said Sgt McCabe made himself available upon request and freely and openly discussed the matters that were the subject of the review.

He said Sgt McCabe's complaint about his experience within the An Garda Síochána since making his complaints calls for examination.

Mr Guerin said this is beyond the scope of his terms of reference, but said extensive documentation he has seen, which was given to then minister for justice Alan Shatter by Sgt McCabe's solicitors in September 2012, expresses Sgt McCabe's concerns and needs to be examined.

The report notes no malice on the part of Sgt McCabe in the making of his various complaints, as noted in the Byrne-McGinn report.

Mr Guerin said the time he has spent with Sgt McCabe leads him to "no different conclusion".

He said it would be better to get the testimony of the men and women who worked with Sgt McCabe in the years before he made the complaints.

The report concluded that Mr Shatter did not heed the voice of Sgt McCabe despite the high esteem in which he was held.

Mr Guerin said that was despite the minister having specific statutory powers in the area of complaints from members.

Mr Guerin said there was a "near total absence" in the papers he had examined of written records of submissions made, or advice given, to the minister by his officials.

He said he had seen no written internal records of decisions made by the minister.

Mr Guerin said the approach adopted "had the result that there was no independent investigation" of Sgt McCabe's complaints.

He concluded that the absence of written records was a "matter of some concern", saying it appeared that the minister had acted "on foot of advice received by the commissioner", without that advice being questioned or analysed.

Guerin regrets lack of documentation from GSOC

Mr Guerin has said it was unfortunate that he received no documentation from the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

In his introductory comments to the report, Mr Guerin said that Simon O'Brien from GSOC wrote to him on 13 March to indicate that the gathering of the relevant material was under way as a priority.

However, on 23 April, Mr Guerin received a letter from solicitors on behalf of GSOC raising "various preliminary legal and practical issues" that he said might usefully have been raised at an earlier stage.

Mr Guerin said he does not understand why the obstacles to seeing them were first identified to him in correspondence delivered shortly before close of business on the eve of the date upon which the report was due.

He said the lack of documents from GSOC has been an obstacle to any assessment as part of the review of the adequacy of the investigations conducted by GSOC.

He did say however, that it did not interfere with the other work of the review.

GSOC said this evening that it had gathered a good deal of documentation for the Guerin review, but felt it necessary to seek assurances about its use.

It said it was regrettable the review did not see its files.

"While we were aware of the tight timescale, we were not aware of an exact fixed deadline date," GSOC said.

GSOC said a complainant referred to in the report currently has a case open with the organisation.

It said that case was subject to an investigation and a judicial review.

GSOC said it had wished to discuss this issue with Mr Guerin before his report was published.

Concern over Bailieboro Garda Station

The report makes a list of suggestions for matters relating to Bailieboro Garda Station that should be considered and examined under the terms of reference of a commission of investigation.

It calls firstly for an examination into "the general conduct of policing at Bailieboro Garda District in 2007/2008".

It also recommends an examination of:

- the management and operational structure and resource allocation for Bailieboro garda district to include:

- the number of probationary gardaí assigned to Bailieboro district at the relevant times

- the number and experience of sergeants available to supervise and monitor the probationary gardaí

- the significance - if any - of the absence of an inspector permanently allocated to Bailieboro Garda Station

- the stability, continuity and experience available at district officer level in Bailieboro district at the relevant times

- the arrangements in operation for the supervision and monitoring of probationary gardaí in relation to their operational - and specifically investigative duties

It also calls for the standard of accommodation at Bailieboro Garda Station and its possible impact on the policing function to be considered.

Martin calls for discrete inquiry

Mr Martin this afternoon said the Guerin Report recommendation that a Commission of Investigation be held into the issues raised by Sgt McCabe must be honoured.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Martin said a discrete inquiry into these specific areas would be the correct course of action.

He said a long, unwieldy inquiry could result if the terms of investigation were broadened.

Mr Martin said the report was a vindication of Sgt McCabe.

He said the lesson to be learned was that no matter how difficult and inconvenient it may be for people in authority, they must listen.

Sinn Féin's justice spokesperson called on the Government and the acting Garda Commissioner to immediately restore full rights to Sgt McCabe.

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn told RTÉ's News at One Sgt McCabe still did not have access to the PULSE system and he was the subject of ongoing harassment and bullying.

Mr Mac Lochlainn said he asked Sgt McCabe if any senior garda officer had sought to help him and protect him from harassment and Sgt McCabe had answered "no".

Mr Mac Lochlainn said the Guerin Report was a vindication of Sgt McCabe.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the behaviour of garda management outlined in the report constituted a betrayal of the brave men and women of the force. He called for reform of the justice system.

Independent TD Clare Daly said there was a need for a reconstituted garda force, where it was unlikely there would be a place for many of the current senior management.

Wilson calls for transparency

Garda whistleblower John Wilson has said the Guerin Report highlights the need for a new era of transparency and accountability in An Garda Síochána.

He said the vast majority of gardaí are decent hard-working individuals who carry out their duty in the most difficult and dangerous circumstances.

He said the Government owes it to them that confidence be restored.

The retired garda said that Sgt McCabe is an honourable police officer who is still being denied access to the PULSE computer system and is still being victimised and harassed.

He also said the interim Garda Commissioner should "lift the phone and talk to him".

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has said Alan Shatter took responsibility for the mistakes of many people when he resigned. 

Mr Varadkar said he did not think for one second that Mr Shatter "was the bad guy in all of this".

He said it seemed the trust he had placed in garda management and GSOC, to carry out investigations, seemed to have been misplaced.

Speaking at the sod turning for the Gort-Tuam motorway in Co Galway this afternoon, Mr Varadkar said the Guerin Report created a number of big questions for the Government.

He said a lot needed to be done to restore public confidence in the justice system.

Keywords: garda, sean guerin