Monday 17 June 2019

Gsoc clears gardaí, but leaves serious issues unexplained

Stock photo
Stock photo
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

It has been one of the most extraordinary murder investigations in the history of An Garda Síochána.

And now, more than 22 years after the killing of Sophie Toscan du Plantier and a plethora of internal and external inquiries, as well as High Court and Supreme Court hearings, we are still a long way from finding out the full truth of what took place on the night of December 23, 1996.

Since the early stages of the Garda investigation, it was clear that it was likely to become mired in controversy as the scene of the crime, for various reasons, had not been fully preserved.

There was also a delay in carrying out a post-mortem examination of the body.

But other serious questions eventually arose as inquiries were carried out into the circumstances surrounding the arrest of suspect Ian Bailey, and the withdrawal of a statement of evidence by a key witness.

Mr Bailey, who has always maintained his innocence, launched a series of legal proceedings, ranging from a libel action in 2003 and a High Court case for wrongful arrest and Garda conspiracy, to European Arrest Warrant proceedings and opposing his indictment by the French authorities. Two internal inquiries, headed by a detective chief superintendent and an assistant commissioner, failed to produce the answers to all of the key questions.

In 2012, Mr Bailey, his partner Jules Thomas and the key witness, Marie Farrell, brought their complaints to the then recently formed Garda Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc). Mr Bailey's main complaint, which could form a vital part of his defence against any French proceedings, was that the gardaí involved in the murder investigation had acted corruptly and that he and his partner had been unlawfully arrested. However, this suggestion has been totally demolished by Gsoc, which found there was no evidence of the "high level corruption by gardaí" alleged by the three complainants.

It also found that a number of factors led to Mr Bailey being identified as a suspect early on in the inquiry and the arrests of Mr Bailey and Ms Thomas could not be construed as unlawful or illegal.

Gsoc also made it clear there was no evidence that Ms Farrell had been coerced or intimidated, as alleged, into making false statements against Mr Bailey.

These two findings are crucial to the gardaí who have been under suspicion of criminal behaviour as a result of the allegations.

However, there are other serious issues which are worrying to the force and remain unexplained. Gsoc expressed its "grave concern" over the disappearance of pages from the jobs book, which is a central record of how the Garda investigation is being carried out, setting out all of the activities and orders given to investigation members and the reasons behind them.

Gsoc said it appeared that the missing pages, which related to the identification of Mr Bailey as a suspect, had disappeared from the jobs book some time after December 2002 as their absence had not been noted in the internal investigation held before then.

The report outlines compelling evidence as to why Gsoc believes the pages were removed deliberately and it is a finding that must be viewed seriously by Garda management. Meanwhile, the dismissal of the corruption claims will be a disappointment to Mr Bailey.

Irish Independent

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