Senior garda who won war on gangs criticises length of GSOC inquiries
The senior garda who led the operations that smashed Limerick's feuding gangs has slammed GSOC's "unacceptably long delays" in the investigation of serious complaints against members of the force.
Gardaí who find themselves under investigation by the watchdog are being "left in an intolerable limbo" sometimes lasting years before their names are cleared, the city's former top detective has revealed.
Detective Superintendent Jim Browne retired in March after bringing down the notorious Dundon/McCarthy 'Murder Inc' gang.
The officer's success in the battle with the organised crime mobs won him almost hero status in Limerick.
But he revealed that he was recently cleared of any wrongdoing by a GSOC inquiry that took more than four years to complete.
The officer said that gardaí "would be sacked" if they took the same length of time to finalise similar enquiries.
"Individual gardaí are waiting up to four years and even longer to be vindicated by GSOC investigations into serious allegations of a criminal nature, and these unacceptably long delays are placing undue stress on those being investigated," Mr Browne told the Irish Independent.
He cited the recent death of Sergeant Michael Galvin in Donegal, who took his own life after being investigated by GSOC following the death of Sheena Stewart, who was struck by a taxi.
It later emerged that GSOC had already cleared Sgt Galvin but tragically the garda had not been told.
"The tragic death of Sergeant Michael Galvin in Donegal is also proof that the ombudsman needs to be reformed from the top down - everyone agrees with the need for oversight, but this organisation is just not fit for purpose," the former detective added.
"GSOC needs to adopt a completely new approach to how it does its business - this good man is dead because he could not take the pressure and was not informed that he had been cleared.
"If this continues, the Irish public will be paying a heavy price in a few a years because there will be no incentive for any guard to put his neck on the line," Mr Browne said.
Last month, the garda watchdog official cleared Mr Browne and a colleague of any wrongdoing, four years and nine days after the inquiry was launched.
Mr Browne is the most senior garda officer yet to publicly express his criticisms of the garda ombudsman, and said he wanted to know why it had taken so long to conclude the investigation.
"It is incredible to think that it took just over four years to conclude this matter," Mr Browne said.
"I was very concerned at the length of time it was taking the ombudsman to investigate what were criminal charges against me and my colleague."
Last week, a Supreme Court judge was appointed to probe the death of Sergeant Mick Galvin as part of an investigation into the Garda Ombudsman.
The judicial inquiry was set up following widespread anger at the death of the garda in Ballyshannon Garda Station on May 28, and the fact that he did not know that he had already been cleared by GSOC.
A statement released by GSOC after the inquiry was announced said: "We are convinced that our interaction with the late Sergeant Galvin was proportionate and reasonable."