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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Garda malpractice probe cost almost €1.8m

Published 22/11/2016 | 02:30

In total, eight investigations were found to have been flawed, including the case of Jerry McGrath, who murdered Sylvia Roche Kelly in Limerick while out on bail in 2007 (Stock picture)
In total, eight investigations were found to have been flawed, including the case of Jerry McGrath, who murdered Sylvia Roche Kelly in Limerick while out on bail in 2007 (Stock picture)

A commission of Investigation set up to investigate allegations of inappropriate garda behaviour in the Cavan/Monaghan division has cost almost €1.8m.

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Figures compiled by the Department of Justice show that during the O'Higgins Commission, which reported in April last year, legal costs for witnesses alone amounted to €450,000.

Another €774,000 was spent on administration while the commission's legal team and expenses came to €554,000.

The commission was started on foot of complaints made by whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

In its report, it observed serious flaws and failures in criminal investigations but said they were at "a human level and caused by poorly surprised individuals".

In total, eight investigations were found to have been flawed, including the case of Jerry McGrath, who murdered Sylvia Roche Kelly in Limerick while out on bail in 2007.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said that "victims of crime were not well served by An Garda Síochána".

The report also concludes there was "not a scintilla of evidence" to support a claim of corruption against former commissioner Martin Callinan.

In reply to a parliamentary question from Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath, the Justice Minister also revealed that another commission under her remit has bills totalling €1.1m.

The MacLochlainn Commission was established in 2014 to investigate the fatal shooting of Ronan MacLochlainn by members of An Garda Siochána in the course of an attempted armed robbery of a Securicor van in Co Wicklow during the 'Blue Flu' in May 1998.

It has spent €592,000 on administration, €237,000 on the commission's legal team and expenses and €321,000 on witnesses' legal costs.

Ms Fitzgerald said: "The administration costs include matters relating to the running of the commissions, such as rent, equipment and salaries.

"Both sole members were paid at the rate of a High Court judge and, in the case of Judge O'Higgins, pension abatement applied."

She noted that the costs are still provisional as in the case of the MacLochlainn inquiry the final report has not yet been issued due to legal proceedings taken by one of the parties involved.

In relation to O'Higgins, the guidelines setting out the rates for legal costs for witnesses and others are the subject of a judicial review.

Separately, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has launched an investigation on foot of allegations that Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan instructed her legal team to attribute malice to Sgt McCabe during interactions with the inquiry. This has been denied by Ms O'Sullivan.

Responding to a query on that probe from Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace, Ms Fitzgerald said she has "taken what action is open to me at this stage to assist GSOC to complete its investigation.

"It is now a matter for GSOC how to proceed."

She noted that they may be able to access transcripts from the commission by court order.

"While the granting of any such order is a matter for the courts, I will, of course, comply with any such court order, if it is made."

She said it would inappropriate to comment further.

Irish Independent

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