Thursday 8 December 2016

Garda Whistleblower is disciplined over pipebomb find

Garda claims to have been targeted by senior members of the force for investigating suspect

Published 01/05/2016 | 02:30

REPORT: Justice minister Frances Fitzgerald is preparing to publish the findings of the Commission of Investigation into claims of garda misconduct. Photo: Collins Photo Agency
REPORT: Justice minister Frances Fitzgerald is preparing to publish the findings of the Commission of Investigation into claims of garda misconduct. Photo: Collins Photo Agency

A new garda whistleblower claim, that a suspect in a serious criminal case remained free despite several breaches of bail conditions, is being investigated by senior gardai, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

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The whistleblower claims to have been targeted by senior members of the force for investigating the suspect.

The garda alleges the suspect breached bail conditions at least five times while awaiting trial.

The violations include drug possession, curfew breaches and driving without insurance. The suspect is also linked to the discovery of a viable pipe bomb which needed to be disposed of by the Army Bomb squad.

The garda whistleblower, who found the bomb, is currently facing disciplinary action over the discovery.

The garda made the complaint to Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan's office.

A senior officer was appointed to investigate the claims and the case is ongoing.

The Sunday Independent understands the allegations focus on a garda investigation into a known criminal.

The individual was arrested and charged with a serious crime but released on bail.

Local gardai believed the individual was selling drugs while he was on bail and mounted surveillance.

According to sources familiar with the operation, the surveillance was discontinued after a number of days.

Some time later, two gardai followed the suspect to a house believing he had broken his strict curfew conditions.

When they called to the home, the individual came to the door and told them to search a field in a nearby town. The gardai searched the field that evening but due to poor light could not find anything of relevance.

However, the following morning one of the gardai, the whistleblower, returned to the field in the daylight and discovered a long, cylindrical package wrapped in yellow tape.

Senior officers were alerted to the discovery and the Army Bomb Disposal Unit was called to investigate.

It emerged the package was a viable pipebomb which could have maimed the garda who made the discovery, or a member of the public who stumbled upon the device.

The garda was initially recommended for official recognition of their police work by their line manager.

Gardai also carried out a risk assessment of the garda who found the bomb due to concerns the garda had been targeted by the suspect who led the whistleblower to the device.

However, disciplinary action was later initiated against the garda over how the information was obtained from the suspect.

The garda also faces disciplinary action - which could lead to dismissal - for failing to have informed senior management before searching the field where the bomb was located.

The garda is also being reprimanded for using their private car and wearing plain clothes while investigating the site of the pipebomb.

It is claimed the garda's failure to follow procedure could have seriously injured themselves, other gardai and members of the public.

The whistleblower claims gardai received complaints about the same suspect being in possession of a firearm but the allegations were never followed up.

It is also alleged the individual was twice caught in possession of drugs while awaiting trial.

The whistleblower claims to be living in fear of the suspect and is seeking better protection from senior officers.

The garda's partner is also understood to have made a complaint to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) about the lack of protection afforded to the whistleblower.

The names of those involved in the investigation cannot be revealed for legal reason and to protect the identity of the whistleblower.

A garda spokeswoman said: "An Garda Siochana do not comment on any investigation in relation to protected disclosure."

The allegations come as Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald prepares to publish the findings of the Commission of Investigation into claims of garda misconduct by whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Mr Justice Kevin O'Higgins's report was presented to the Department of Justice on Monday. It will be published following examination and advice from the Attorney- General Maire Whelan.

Sunday Independent

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