Tuesday 24 April 2018

Charleton pulls no punches with excoriating report

Mr Justice Peter Charleton. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Mr Justice Peter Charleton. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The report by Mr Justice Peter Charleton could not have been more damning of Garda Keith Harrison and his partner Marissa Simms.

The Supreme Court judge did not pull his punches, describing various aspects of their story as "nonsense" or "utter nonsense".

In fact his report was so excoriating of Harrison and Simms, the judge was careful to clearly differentiate between their case and that of Sgt Maurice McCabe, the other Garda whistleblower whose treatment is being investigated by the Disclosures Tribunal.

The McCabe modules were "an entirely different matter", he said, and no fact found in the interim report published last night has any impact on them.

Nevertheless, the report clearly shows that not all whistleblowers have genuine concerns.

It also clearly highlighted the damage false accusations can cause.

The judge said the diligent gardaí and social workers accused of abusing their positions were entitled to feel deeply upset and he made a point of stating he was exonerating them of any wrongdoing.

The integrity of a number individuals was incorrectly undermined by widely-publicised allegations, he found.

When Gda Harrison's complaint was included in the tribunal's terms of reference, there was a sense that this was done very much on the coattails of Sgt McCabe.

That is not to say they should not have been investigated.

The judge said the process of enquiry was started "in good faith" by the Oireachtas.

"It is only in consequence of the tribunal hearings and this report that there has been a full appraisal of the facts," he said.

"That is what an enquiry by tribunal is about. Had the accusations made been true, an extremely serious state of affairs would have been uncovered. In respect of this matter, it was not. That does not mean, however, that the process was not called for."

Mr Justice Charleton said the case highlighted deficiencies in procedures relating to maintaining garda discipline.

He described as astonishing the extent to which it was regarded as tolerable for Gda Harrison to complain about and question directions from superior officers.

Among matters complained of by Gda Harrison were decisions by superior officers about where he should be stationed, a finding that it was inappropriate to use the Garda Pulse system to check up on an ex-girlfirend, and that he should not drive a car with a false insurance certificate.

The judge said many reasonable and ordinary commands were routinely questioned by the garda.

And he remarked that 13 years after the Morris Tribunal it was still far too difficult to dispense with the services of gardaí who are unsuited to police work or who are just not prepared to work.

He said the garda discipline process as it current exists is far too easily impeded.

"To be clear, the duty that the police force owes to Ireland requires that those serving within it are under command and not in a position to create difficulty when directed to do their work honestly and properly," he said.

Irish Independent

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