'We need to be able to trust the gardai in court' - Taoiseach heaps pressure on Noirin O'Sullivan over Jobstown
TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar wants the review into the Jobstown trial to examine the testimony given by gardaí who appeared on the witness stand.
In an usual move, Mr Varadkar has intervened in a row involving one of the most significant trials in years.
The Fine Gael leader has heaped pressure on Nóirín O'Sullivan, saying that garda testimony should not differ from the video evidence presented in cases.
In an interview on RTÉ 'Primetime', Mr Varadkar said: "People need to trust what gardaí say on the stand and I can understand that perhaps in a scenario whereby lots of things are happening quickly and people are caught up in the heat of the moment, they may have a recollection that isn't exactly as things happened.
"There is something there that needs to be looked at, both by the Garda Commissioner and senior Garda management because we need to be able to trust that when gardaí stand up in court and they say something happened that that did happen."
Garda management have launched a "lessons learnt" review of the garda response and investigation into the 2014 protest in Jobstown which resulted in six men going on trial on false imprisonment charges.
The six, including Solidarity TD Paul Murphy, were acquitted on charges of falsely imprisoning former Tánaiste Joan Burton and her adviser Karen O'Connell during the protest in West Dublin.
Following the verdict a number of TDs have called for an investigation into a public inquiry into the garda investigation, which the Taoiseach has said the Government has no plans for.
However an internal garda review is underway.
A spokesperson for An Garda Síochaná told Independent.ie the review was commenced on June 30 "into the policing response and the subsequent investigation into the incident that occurred at An Cosán, Kiltalawn, Tallaght on 15th November, 2014 from a lessons-learnt perspective".
News of the review comes after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said garda management should look into evidence given by gardaí during the trial.
Speaking on Prime Time Mr Varadkar said:
"People need to trust what the gardai say on the stand and I can understand that perhaps in a scenario whereby lots of things are happening quickly and people are caught up in the heat of the moment, they may have a recollection that isn't exactly as things happened," he said in a portion of the interview broadcast by RTE on the Six-One news.
"But I would be very concerned if it's the case that we would ever have gardaí on the stand in the court giving evidence that is not in line with the facts, that is not in line, for example, with the video evidence.
"I think there is something there that needs to be looked at by the garda commissioner and by senior garda management because we need to be able to trust that when the gardai stand up in court and they say something happened that that did happen.
"And it shouldn't conflict with the video evidence and if it does that is a problem.
The garda spokesman said the review will be conducted by Assistant Commissioner Barry O'Brien and will examine the following areas:
- Key learning points
- Identification of organisational practices/policies which require improvement.
- Any other issues of note
In a statement to Independent.ie, the Garda Representative Authority said:
"The Taoiseach is entitled to call for an 'examination' of evidence given in any case - including that given by gardaí (and others) in Jobstown. How this might be achieved is perhaps more challenging and begs the question as to why a plethora of other cases should also not be opened where any witness evidence is alleged to be suspect.
"The GRA repeats that had the government provided its front line members with body cams for Jobstown - and every incident that its members attend - there could have been little dispute about such evidence and this debate may have been avoided. It is the lack of resourcing for frontline gardai, from an unwillingness to protect by issuing Tasers to each member, to an unwillingness to provide best evidence for all by issuing body cams, that is the core issue.
"It is and always has been the GRA's position that where it is proven that gardaí or any other citizen have perjured themselves in court, then the full force of the law must be applied. However, a significant and relatively cost effective answer to the problem has been brushed aside. Body cams for police mean justice for all - for the gardaí, for alleged offenders and for society in general. Until such time, discussion of alleged evidential failings are unfortunately, inevitable."