Sunday 21 December 2014

Garda Sergeant challenges court finding that he breached discipline

Aodhan O'Faolain & Ray Managh

Published 23/09/2013 | 18:50

A GARDA Sergeant has launched a High Court challenge against a finding he failed to provide medical treatment for a man in custody who following his release was found unconscious.

The action has been brought by Sergeant Denis Palmer.

Following an investigation by the Garda Ombudsman, Sgt Palmer was found guilty by the Garda Commissioner  of three breaches of Garda discipline regulations followin the detention of a man at Harcourt Garda Station on September 26-27th 2009. 

Sgt Palmer wants the High Court to quash the findings and sanctions against him. He claims in the course of the investigation the Commissioner and the Ombudsman denied him fair procedures. He also argues the findings against him are an unfair blemish against his good name and reputation..  

The court heard the man at the centre of the investigation was arrested and detained by Gardai for public order offences. He become violent at a City Centre Hotel after allegedly taking a controlled substance. The man was found in an unconscious state on a Dublin Street some three hours after being released from Garda custody.

Sgt Palmer was the member in charge of Harcourt Terrace Station on the date in question.   An investigation into the man's detention was conducted by the Garda Ombudsman. In a report, forwarded by the Ombudsman to the Garda Commissioner, it was held that Sgt Palmer may have been in neglect of duty in respect of the man's detention.

It was alleged Sgt Palmer failed to summon obtain or provide medical assistance to the man. It was also alleged Sgt Palmer failed to record calls requesting and later cancelling the attendance of a doctor at the station while the man was in custody.  

Last July Sgt Palmer was informed that he had been found guilty of the three breaches and was sanctioned. He received a caution for failing to provide medical assistance to the man and warnings for the other breaches.  

Sgt Palmer's lawyers say that in breach of fair procedures he was never given sight of the contents of Ombudsman's report before it was sent to the Garda Commissioner for consideration. Sgt Palmer was not able to comment on, or make submissions on the content of the report, which it is claimed contains errors of fact.

A request to be given sight of the report before the Commissioner made his findings was refused by the Ombudsman. In addition submissions made by Sgt Palmer to the Ombudsman's investigating officer were not forwarded to the Garda Commissioner.

In his action against the Garda Commissioner, the State  and the Garda Ombudsman Commission Sgt Palmer, currently stationed at Pearse Street Garda Station, wants the High Court to quash the findings against him. He also wants the sanctions he received quashed. 

He further seeks a number of declarations including that the Commissioner and the Ombudsman breached his rights by failing to allow him make submissions on the Ombudsman's report. 

Today at the High Court Mr Justice Paul McDermott granted Sgts Palmer permission, on an ex-parte basis, to bring his challenge.  The matter was adjourned to a date in November.

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