THE garda watchdog is to investigate the conduct of senior gardai who breached custody regulations and ran an informer "off the books" after a man was cleared of murder.
The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan are conducting separate inquiries in the aftermath of the Christopher Zambra murder trial, where the accused was acquitted of a fatal pub shooting.
Dubliner Zambra (38) was cleared of ordering the February 2009 murder of John 'Champers' Carroll in Grumpy Jacks in the Coombe, Dublin.
There was uproar in the Central Criminal Court as Zambra, of Galtymore Road, Drimnagh, who was accused of ordering the murder, was acquitted by a majority verdict following a two-month trial.
It was the second time that Mr Zambra had faced trial for murder after a jury failed to reach a verdict on the charge against him two years ago.
During the retrial, Det Sgt Adrian Whitelaw admitted that he had operated outside the Covert Human Intelligence Source (CHIS) system when dealing with the prosecution's key witness Joseph O'Brien.
O'Brien had admitted his involvement in the murder but was granted a form of immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying against Mr Zambra and others.
O'Brien had refused to operate within CHIS, the informant handling system introduced in the wake of the Morris Tribunal report, the court heard.
Both Detective Superintendent PJ Browne, who retired from the force shortly after the murder, and Det Sgt Whitelaw admitted interviewing O'Brien off camera during the investigation, contrary to regulations.
Trial judge Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy described drug dealer O'Brien, who is living with his partner and two children under the witness protection programme (WPP), as a serial perjurer who was guilty of murder himself.
It emerged during the retrial that Det Sgt Whitelaw – who had no formal training in the area of handling informers – used to issue "bogus" invoices to low-level informers. Det Sgt Whitelaw, with some 31 years' experience in the force, said he issued the invoices as the informers owed money to persons who could shoot or stab them.
Last night GSOC, which ordered transcripts of the original 2011 trial, confirmed that it was conducting an inquiry.
"GSOC has received a complaint into related matters and is conducting a disciplinary investigation in accordance with Section 95 of the Garda Siochana Act 2005" it said.
Section 95 allows GSOC to investigate complaints that "do not appear to involve offences".
Details of the gardai's internal inquiry emerged during the retrial when Mr Zambra's lawyers wrote to the DPP and the Garda Commissioner seeking details of any inquiry into "accepted flouting of the codes of conduct and regulations involved" according to letters opened during the retrial.
During the retrial a senior officer was asked if there had been any investigation after Judge White's comments. "I believe there was an inquiry. I don't know anything about it," testified Superintendent JJ Keane, adding that he didn't know if that inquiry had concluded.
Peter Kenny (29), from Dublin, was last year jailed for life for the murder of Mr Carroll.
Two other men – Damien Johnston and Bernard Hempenstall – were acquitted.