Saturday 21 October 2017

'I was absolutely stunned' - Man who lost wife and daughter in crash billed €1,940 for garda documents

Noel Clancy at court in Cork Picture: Cork Courts Ltd
Noel Clancy at court in Cork Picture: Cork Courts Ltd

Rebecca Lumley

A heartbroken father said he is trying to piece together the details of a tragic car crash which killed his wife and daughter, despite being issued with a wrongful bill of almost €2,000 to access Garda details.

Noel Clancy sought to access witness statements and other documents relating to the accident, which occurred just three days before Christmas in 2015.

Geraldine and Louise Clancy were drowned after their car was flipped into a flooded ditch in a road traffic collision. The other driver pleaded guilty and no witness statements were heard in open court, leaving Mr Clancy with a raft of questions about the accident.

However he revealed that he was met with a bill of €1,940, despite an announcement last year that such fees would be halted under a new Garda directive.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Mr Clancy said he was advised that the documentation would be free under the directive, but local gardaí knew nothing about the changes.

“Gardaí actually told me when I asked for the inquest in February this year that all the abstracts and witness statements would be free. So my solicitor then in due course made a written application to my (local) gardaí for the statements and he received this bill back,” he said.

Geraldine Clancy and her daughter Louise Ann Clancy
Geraldine Clancy and her daughter Louise Ann Clancy

“When he rang me I was absolutely stunned, I couldn’t believe it.”

When Mr Clancy’s solicitor contacted gardaí at Fermoy Garda Station, he was told that no directive had been issued by Garda HQ, despite being announced for January 2017. Under the directive, fees to access documentation in the case of fatal collisions would be free.

“I’m trying to piece together the entire event- who made the 999 call, who drove for help, who did this, who did that,” he said.

“It’s like a broken vase and you’re trying to gather up all the pieces and glue it all together.”

“There were people who tried helping that day. One man in particular jumped into the water and tried to open the door and couldn’t because of the waves. All we know is basically that. But we would like to see his statement, just to read it and see exactly, in his words, what happened,” he said.

Upon receipt of the bills, Mr Clancy contacted the road safety group Parc, who lobbied to have his bill waived.

Mr Clancy has since called for all families wrongfully charged since January to be reimbursed.

According to Mr Clancy, the directive was first announced on the Garda website in August 2016. It was due to be implemented in January 2017 but there was no directive issued by Garda HQ to individual Garda stations.

Mr Clancy said local gardaí’s “hands were tied” because they had not received the directive, saying “they can’t go and do something unless they’ve been told to do it.”

He was contacted by a Garda spokesperson last night, who confirmed that all bills issued since the first of January would be redacted and that those who had been wrongfully charged would be reimbursed.

Parc’s founder Susan Gray has advised families seeking reimbursement to contact the organisation for assistance.

A Garda spokesperson said the waiver applied to all applications for documents relating to road traffic collisions received after January 1, not limited to incidents that occurred after that date. The directive is expected to be issued “in early course.”

Mr Clancy said the situation reflected poor communication within An Garda Síochána. 

“You would wonder does the left hand in the Gardai know what the right hand is doing. This is a small issue, it affects a small amount of people in the greater scheme of things, but you would wonder why that wasn’t followed up,” he said.

“It was such a sensitive matter, dealing with real cases and real families, you would think that someone would say ‘you have to do this by a certain date.’ That never happened.”

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