Friday 23 August 2019

Tribunal to hear claims garda was bullied after blowing the whistle on colleague's alleged relationship with drug suspect

Garda whistleblower Nick Keogh. Picture by Barry Cronin
Garda whistleblower Nick Keogh. Picture by Barry Cronin
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Allegations a garda was bullied after blowing the whistle on a colleague’s alleged sexual relationship with a suspected drug dealer will be the first matter dealt with by the Disclosures Tribunal when it resumes hearings in June.

Tribunal counsel Diarmaid McGuinness SC said this morning the first matter the tribunal intends to deal with in its latest module is a disclosure made by Garda Nicholas Keogh.

Mr McGuinness did not go into the detail of Gda Keogh’s complaint.

However, much of it has previously been outlined by TDs in the Dáil.

The Athlone-based garda has made allegations of garda collusion with a drug dealing operation in the midlands.

Among his allegations are that a garda who was having a relationship with a female drug suspect tipped her off ahead of a search of her home in 2009.

Gda Keogh has also claimed gardaí coerced people with no prior convictions to procure drugs and sell these to undercover officers in a bid to boost drug detections figures.

The garda, who has been on sick leave for the past three years, claims he was bullied and harassed after raising concerns.

Mr McGuinness said a number of other complaints made by other serving and former gardaí would be dealt with after hearings on Gda Keogh’s complaint have concluded.

He said he did not think it appropriate to identify those complainants at this stage.

The barrister’s remarks came after Mr Justice Sean Ryan, the former President of the Court of Appeal, made an opening statement on the latest module.

The tribunal has previously investigated complaints made by former Sergeant Maurice McCabe and Gda Keith Harrison. 

Mr Justice Ryan said the latest module would see the tribunal considering complaints from gardaí made prior to February 16, 2017 that they were targeted or discredited with the knowledge or acquiescence of officers of superintendent rank or above after making protected disclosures.

He said it an important limitation of the tribunal was that its focus was not on the wrongdoing reported in the disclosure, no matter how serious the allegations, but rather on the conduct towards the garda subsequent to the disclosure.

The judge said that while these matters may not in particular circumstances be sealed off in discrete compartments and there may be some elements of overlap, the focus of the inquiry was clearly defined in its terms of reference.

“It is understandable that some persons making complaints to the tribunal may be disappointed to find that it is not possible to investigate their grievances because they are not within the tribunal’s remit and therefore inadmissible,” said Mr Justice Ryan in his opening statement at Dublin Castle.

“Gardaí whose complaints are considered admissible may also be unhappy because some substantial or significant part of their allegations is not the subject of investigation or a public hearing.

“Legal advisers will no doubt apprise their clients of the legal constraints on a public inquiry such as this.

“If we were to trespass outside our limited zone of jurisdiction, it would be open to anybody affected by the investigation to get an order of the High Court prohibiting it.

“But fear of litigation is not a factor. The reality is that no tribunal would intentionally engage in a process which it was not authorised to do.”

Mr Justice Ryan said there would be “serious potential injustices” if consideration of a complaint “trespassed into unauthorised areas”.

The judge also clarified that while a literal reading of the terms of reference may suggest complaints could only come from serving gardaí, the tribunal was satisfied it also covered retired gardaí.

Later Mr McGuinness said the taking of statements and other investigations in relation to Gda Keogh’s complaint was ongoing.

He said the first public hearing on the Keogh matters would be in late June and hearings would continue into July.

A “case management” hearing is also due to take place on April 30 in private to hear submissions from Gda Keogh’s legal team and other parties implicated by his claims.

Mr McGuinness said the tribunal regarded this as an essential step to get the views of parties on what the relevant issues are.

“It will enable us and all parties to know the nature by which the tribunal will approach things,” he said.

Gda Keogh and his legal team were present for the opening statement.

The tribunal heard that while the Garda Commissioner and a number of other officers would have the same legal team, there were other members of the force being represented by different lawyers.

Mr McGuinness said the tribunal had received a list of officers who are being represented by the law firm Reddy Charlton.

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