Garda negligence ‘disheartening’, new Justice Minister says
Proven negligence and malpractice in Garda investigations raised by whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe are unacceptable and disheartening, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said.
Serious deficiencies have been highlighted across a wide range of inquiries with officers lambasted for losing evidential exhibits and poor note taking, interview techniques and record keeping.
Some of the most serious flaws were made in two investigations involving Jerry McGrath during 2007 including the inappropriate charge that was brought against him for a savage attack on a woman near Virginia, Co Cavan.
“It was an error of judgment to prefer a charge under section 2 rather than section 3 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 in view of what the officer in the office of the DPP later accurately termed “the savagery of the attack,” the report stated.
There were also inadequate and obvious defects in the probe into a public order incident and possible sexual assault that took place on a bus at Kingscourt, Co Cavan, in Feburary 2007.
An inquiry into an assault at Lakeside Manor Hotel, Virginia, Co Cavan, lay untouched for months while crucial video evidence was not secured and attempts to “trick” a suspect into making admissions were also wrong, the commission found.
Officers were also criticised for failing to take victims’ complaints seriously.
The newly appointed Tanaiste said lessons should be learned.
“That is as unacceptable as it is disheartening and we must take all measures open to us to ensure that these shortcomings are not repeated,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
One of those most affected by the proven malpractice was Lorcan Roche Kelly, who received extracts of the report in the past fortnight and insisted he has no faith in the force.
His wife Sylvia was murdered by Jerry McGrath in December 2007 while out on bail after being charged for assaulting a taxi driver and being caught red-handed while trying to abduct a five-year-old girl from her family home in Tipperary.
In those cases prosecuting gardai did not give judges full information on McGrath’s past.
And he killed Ms Roche Kelly 10 days after his second release.
Ms Fitzgerald drew attention to when the investigations occurred, with some dating back a decade.
She said it was abundantly clear Garda oversight at the time and “up to a couple of years ago… served no-one particularly well”.
Ms Fitzgerald said: “I very much appreciate that the events outlined in the report have been traumatic for many people who have been affected by them.
“It would be an injustice to those who brought events to light in the public interest and those who have lived under the shadow of these events for a long time, if we do not take on board the lessons from these events.”
The 360-page report by retired judge Kevin O’Higgins was published on the back of a scoping exercise into Sgt McCabe’s claims by barrister Sean Guerin.
His findings led to led to Alan Shatter resigning as justice minister.
On the delay in publishing the report while vast sections were leaked Ms Fitzgerald said the Attorney General Maire Whelan consulted with the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Garda Ombudsman and the Garda.
She said the risk of prejudicing criminal trials was only ruled out yesterday.