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Garda negligence ‘disheartening’, new Tanaiste says

Proven negligence and malpractice in Garda investigations raised by whistle-blower Sergeant Maurice McCabe are unacceptable and disheartening, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said.

The newly appointed Tanaiste said the s erious deficiencies in policing in the Cavan-Monaghan district in the 2000s showed victims were “not served well” by the force.

The worst cases revolved around murderer J erry McGrath who was inappropriately charged with a minor assault and went on to kill while on bail for that and while awaiting trial for attempted abduction of a five-year-old.

Ms Fitzgerald 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,” she said.

One of those most affected by the proven malpractice was Lorcan Roche Kelly, who received extracts of the report in the last fortnight but insisted he has no faith in the force.

His wife Sylvia was murdered by McGrath in December 2007 while out on bail after being charged for assaulting taxi driver Mary Lynch and being caught red-handed trying to abduct a young girl from her family home in Tipperary.

In those cases prosecuting gardai did not give judges full information on McGrath’s past before he was given bail.

He killed Ms Roche Kelly 10 days after his second release.

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.

The lawyer’s findings led to led to Alan Shatter resigning as justice minister.

The judge’s report finds he was not at fault in relation to allegations of wrongdoing or mishandling of Sgt McCabe’s complaints.

Other failures outlined by the judge show inadequate and obvious defects in a probe into a public order incident and possible sexual assault on a bus at Kingscourt, Co Cavan, in Feburary 2007.

An inquiry into an assault at Lakeside Manor Hotel, Virginia, Co Cavan, on April 14 2007 was left untouched for months and crucial video evidence was not secured.

The report by retired judge Kevin O’Higgins also said the attempts to “trick” a suspect into making admissions were wrong, the commission found

Gardai have also been lambasted for poor note-taking, interviewing and record keeping across a range of investigations.

Ms Fitzgerald drew attention to the 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.”

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.

Sgt McCabe was described in the report as a dedicated and committed officer.

It also found he had reason to believe that he was being “set up” and wrongly implicated over failings in the McGrath case.

The report said these fears were “understandable” but ” unproven”.

It said the sergeant was “never less than truthful in his evidence, even if prone to exaggeration at times”.

While some of his allegations of wrongdoing were overstated, exaggerated or unfounded, the O’Higgins report said he acted out of genuine and legitimate concerns.

“While some of his complaints have not been upheld by this commission, Sergeant McCabe is a man of integrity, whom the public can trust in the exercise of his duties,” the judge said.

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Despite this, the inquiry vindicated former garda commissioner Martin Callinan over an accusation by Sgt McCabe that the police chief had broken the law by putting a superintendent on a promotion list.

Three other senior officers were also cleared of corruption – Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne, Chief Superintendent Colm Rooney and Superintendent Michael Clancy.

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