Wednesday 22 October 2014

Hunt for source of leaks at GSOC HQ nearing completion

Published 26/08/2014 | 02:30

GSOC chairman Simon O’Brien
GSOC chairman Simon O’Brien

An investigation by a leading barrister into "leaks" within the Garda Ombudsman Commission is close to completion.

The senior counsel was appointed by the commission (GSOC) to track down whoever was responsible for disclosing confidential information about its inquiries into fears that its headquarters had been bugged by the gardai.

A maximum of seven people within the GSOC organisation had access to a report, prepared by British security firm, Verrimus, according to GSOC chairman, Simon O'Brien.

The report allegedly formed the basis for the bugging leak.

An internal inquiry was set up last February by Mr O'Brien, but in June it was confirmed that the lawyer had been hired to lead the "leak" hunt. The scope of the inquiry was later extended outside the seven to cover other possible sources.

However, a fresh "leak" of a GSOC report that emerged earlier this month is not being included in the inquiry.

This referred to an 88-page report into the death of Gareth Molloy, who was shot dead by gardai in May 2009 during the attempted robbery of a cash-in-transit van in Lucan, Co Dublin.

The report, which has not been published, accused garda management of repeatedly refusing to provide information on the background to the shooting, which took place after officers had put surveillance on a serious crime gang.

GSOC said its report on the shooting was incomplete as a result. The findings were subsequently leaked to a Sunday newspaper.

But GSOC said this did not come within the remit of the internal inquiry as there was no evidence that it was leaked from within the commission and copies of the findings would also have been circulated to interested parties.

Frequent leaks from within GSOC have been a crucial factor in ratcheting up the tension between the commission and the gardai over the past couple of years.

Tension

That tension reached boiling point last February when a Sunday paper published an article which suggested that a device, known as an ISMI catcher had been used in surveillance on GSOC's headquarters building in Dublin city centre and that it was available only to government level agencies.

This implied that the gardai were the prime suspects for the surveillance. It sparked off a chain of events that plunged the garda force into crisis and ultimately played a significant role in the retirement of Commissioner Martin Callinan and then Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

Mr Justice John Cooke, who carried out an inquiry into the bugging claims on behalf of the Government, found there was no evidence of surveillance of GSOC by the gardai or anybody else.

The judge found that the article was seriously inaccurate but contained information which was evidence of a serious breach of security at the GSOC office.

The Irish Independent disclosed last February that a senior official at GSOC was the prime suspect for information leaks from the commission while it was believed that a more junior member of the staff could have been involved in some of the disclosures.

Irish Independent

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