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Friday 28 October 2016

Justice Minister to establish independent judicial inquiry into tragic death of garda sergeant

GSOC investigation into the death of Sgt. Galvin has been discontinued

Published 04/06/2015 | 20:53

Garda Sergeant Michael Galvin, who died last week
Garda Sergeant Michael Galvin, who died last week

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is to establish an independent judicial inquiry into matters surrounding the tragic death of Sgt. Michael Galvin.

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The minister also welcomed the fact that the GSOC investigation into the death of Sgt. Galvin has now been discontinued.

Minister Fitzgerald said she wishes to express her 'deepest sympathies to the family, friends and colleagues of the late garda sergeant'.

In a statement issued this evening, the minister said meetings held today with the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) and the Association of Garda Sergeants & Inspectors (AGSI) 'were highly constructive and beneficial'.

She said an inquiry by an independent judicial  figure will take place and, under section 109 of the Garda Siochana Act, the Chief Justice will be invited to nominate a High Court or Supreme Court judge to conduct the inquiry and to report back to the minister.

The statement reads: "The  Minister has now decided to initiate an inquiry by an independent judicial  figure,  in accordance with Section 109 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 into the conduct of the original GSOC investigation."

Sgt Galvin, who took his own life, had been the subject of a GSOC investigation following a fatal traffic accident. But he was not aware that he had been cleared of any wrongdoing before he ended his own life.

Read more: Tragic garda didn't know he had been cleared in GSOC probe

Friends say he had expressed fears about losing his job and his home if he was charged with perverting the course of justice.

Following his death, colleagues found a letter in a sealed envelope which was addressed to his wife Collette.

It is understood that he explained that he could not take the pressure of the GSOC investigation which had left him feeling like a criminal.

Sources close to the family have said that Collette Galvin is 'beside herself' with grief and can not understand why her husband had not been informed by GSOC that he had been cleared of any wrongdoing.

The GSOC inquiry had related to a fatal road accident in Ballyshannon on January 1 this year. But GSOC found Sgt Galvin had acted appropriately.

The Taoiseach today extended his personal sympathy to Sgt Galvin’s family and said it was a most tragic and distressing case.

GSOC also released a statement following the meeting this evening, saying they believe much of the 'commentary' in the past few days has been 'misleading, inaccurate and inflammatory'.

They said it does 'have the potential to damage public confidence in the police oversight system'.

"We are convinced that our interaction with the late Sargent Galvin was proportionate and reasonable," the statement reads.

"We were aware of the possibility of our investigation becoming compromised due to our prior engagement with Sergeant Galvin from as early as last Thursday morning, when we initiated a peer review mechanism.

"Following our consultations today, we have come to believe that we need a stronger vindication of the appropriateness of our interactions with Sergeant Galvin.

"We are therefore calling on the Minister for Justice to consider a Section109 investigation, in other words appointing a judicial figure to examine our interaction with Sergeant Galvin.

"In that context we do not believe that it is reasonably practicable for us to continue with our investigation into Sergeant Galvin's death. The situation in which we find ourselves is unforeseen in the legislation and we are taking this decisive action to bring our investigation to a close.

"We have delayed doing this until now as it is our duty to investigate matters that have been referred to us by the Garda Commissioner."

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