GSOC crash probe was disgraceful, says judge
Published 23/10/2015 | 02:30
A district court judge described a GSOC investigation into a road traffic involving a couple and an off-duty garda in 2013 as "one of the most one-sided I have ever seen".
Judge Kevin Kilrane told Sligo district court that GSOC had "ignored" vital evidence and the way they "carried out their function was quite disgraceful".
The judge made his remarks as he upheld a costs order in favour of Maeve and Fintan O'Brien from Carne Castletown-Geoghegan, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, who were charged with giving false and misleading information to a GSOC-designated officer in May 2013.
Judge Kilrane said GSOC's "fingerprints were all over the investigation".
The charge arose out of a road traffic incident at Loughanvally, Mullingar in June 2011 when a car driven by Ms O'Brien was involved in a collision with a car driven by off-duty garda Mark Kenny, who was accompanied by Garda Ciaran McCormack.
Judge Kilrane told yesterday's court that one garda witness told the court he had carried out a search of a part of the road in connection with the alleged incident, when he was really on the telephone telling a colleague to carry out a search. The judge said this account was "appalling and misleading".
At the earlier hearing the O'Briens had maintained that Ms O'Brien's car was stationary when struck by the car driven by Garda Kenny.
But the garda and his colleague said their vehicle had been stopped when struck.
Counsel for the accused, Keith O'Grady told the court the case was essentially "a swearing match - two versus two".
Prosecuting counsel Joe Barnes applied for a nolle prosequi after Judge Kilrane said he would not hear evidence from expert witness Colm Finn for GSOC, who has visited the scene over two years after the crash.
Mr Finn had told the judge that paint sprayed at the scene by investigating gardaí was faint when he saw it.
During the earlier hearing, GSOC investigator Rody Butler confirmed he had not received contemporaneous garda notes or a sketch map from officers who had investigated the crash.
The court heard that Maeve and Fintan O'Brien had been celebrating their wedding anniversary on the night of the crash when they had a row and Mr O'Brien had "stormed off".
In a statement, Ms O'Brien said she had followed her husband in the car and had just stopped to pick him up when the collision occurred. There was an "enormous bang" and the sound of her windscreen breaking was "like ice breaking". Her legs were trapped for some time in the car and she was later taken by ambulance to Mullingar Hospital.
Mr O'Brien said the garda's car was travelling on the wrong side of he road.
Mr O'Grady suggested to Garda McCormack that there was not "a word of truth" in part of a statement he made for a prosecution against Ms O'Brien, who was acquitted of failing to give a breath test.
The court heard garda evidence that Ms O'Brien had "fled" from Mullingar Hospital on the night to avoid giving a sample to gardaí.
At yesterday's district court, Sligo State Solicitor Hugh Sheridan asked for the case to be adjourned for a fortnight to allow GSOC to be represented.
Judge Kilrane said he was re-affirming his costs order.