Tuesday 15 October 2019

GSOC recommends disciplinary action against three officers after death of cyclist Shane O'Farrell

Shane O'Farrell Pic: Collins Courts
Shane O'Farrell Pic: Collins Courts

Aoife Moore

The Garda Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has recommended that disciplinary action be taken against three officers over failings in the death of Shane O'Farrell.

Mr O'Farrell (23) was cycling home when he was struck by a car driven by Zigimantas Gradzuiska on the evening of August 2, 2011.

The Lithuanian national had a number of previous convictions for aggravated burglary, road traffic offences and handling stolen property.

Two weeks before the collision, he was arrested in Newry for three counts of theft.

The day he struck Mr O'Farrell, Gradzuiska was out on bail from courts in both Monaghan and Cavan and a peace bond from Louth Circuit Court.

In January 2012, the O'Farrell family made a complaint to the GSOC about the case.

Members of the Seanad have labelled the events leading to the death of Mr O'Farrell "a whole system failure", and have tabled a motion calling for a full public inquiry.

The Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan told the House on Wednesday, that although the Government was "not opposing the motion", he has now instructed experienced former Judge of the District Court, Judge Gerard Haughton to carry out a scoping exercise to review all the investigations that have taken place.

The scoping exercise will also review changes that have been made to the law and practice in relation to the administration of bail and bench warrants, and whether they had addressed gaps in those systems since the death of Mr O'Farrell.

Mr Flanagan stated that there were a number of failings in the period leading up to the death of Mr O'Farrell.

"I have been informed that GSOC has recommended disciplinary action against three members of the Garda Siochána," Mr Flanagan said.

"Shane O'Farrell was obviously a much loved son and brother and his death has clearly been devastating for his family.

"GSOC completed its first report last year and found there were no grounds for criminal proceedings against any member of the Gardaí.

"However, the report identified conduct that might lead to disciplinary proceedings and commenced an investigation into that conduct.

"Tragically, the actions of the Gardaí fell short of what should have happened where a person on bail or remand and is subsequently arrested for other offences."

The minister was informed the end of January that the disciplinary investigation was complete and a report has been sent to the Garda Commissioner recommending certain actions.

The minister added that Garda Commissioner Drew Harris is currently examining that report and it is a matter for the Commissioner alone to decide on.

However, the minister has commissioned a scoping inquiry, despite objections from the O'Farrell family.

"I met with the Mr and Mrs O'Farrell and three of their daughters last week to outline my proposals to them," he said.

Lucia and Jim O’Farrell, parents of hit-and-run victim Shane O’Farrell
Lucia and Jim O’Farrell, parents of hit-and-run victim Shane O’Farrell

"While they objected to the process of a scoping exercise, they did agree to consider the proposed terms of reference and to engage with Judge Haughton on them."

Mr Flanagan said that the Seanad motion could cause legal difficulties in respect of both the courts - which are independent under the Constitution - and the office of the DPP and GSOC which are both independent under the law.

"The investigation of suspected criminal offences is, with some exceptions, a matter for the Garda," he said.

"In this particular case GSOC have carried out two investigations, a criminal investigation and a disciplinary investigation.

"What the motion proposes is that the actions of the Gardai, which have already been examined by GSOC, should be examined in another forum.

"GSOC is statutorily independent, there is no suggestion, to my knowledge, that any Designated Officer involved in the investigation of complaints made by the family of Shane O'Farrell has behaved in a manner which would justify invoking that."

Sinn Fein MEP, Matt Carthy, has described the announcement by the government of a scoping inquiry into the death of Shane O'Farrell as "simply delaying the inevitable".

PA Media

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section