Garda took own life not knowing he had been cleared by GSOC, investigation concludes
A GARDA sergeant took his own life not knowing he had already been cleared by a Gsoc investigation because he hadn’t been told at that stage, a Judge-led investigation has concluded today.
Supreme Court Judge Mr Justice Frank Clarke was asked to conduct the inquiry after the Irish Independent revealed within days of Sgt Michael ‘Mick’ Galvin’s funeral that the officer had been cleared prior to his death.
The Gsoc criminal investigation was launched on January 1 last year when Sheena Stewart (33) died after being struck by a taxi in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, earlier that day.
Sgt Galvin and two other gardaí who had met interaction with Ms Stewart before her death were interviewed by Gsoc investigators.
Colleagues were furious that Sgt Galvin, a former senior footballer and hurler for Sligo and a father of three who lived in Manorhamilton, Co Sligo, was unaware he had been cleared.
Judge Clarke concluded yesterday in his report that Gsoc investigating officer Daniel Gallagher had decided that Sgt Galvin should not face prosecution on May 21 last year, the day after Sgt Galvin had given Gsoc a statement in Dublin.
The recommendation was sent to Gsoc’s legal affairs department. Six days later – on May 27 – Niamh McKeague from the department emails Gallagher to says she agrees there is insufficient evidence of any offence but McKeague “suggests that a file should, nonetheless, be sent to the DPP”.
The next morning – at 7am – Sgt Galvin’s body was found locked inside the detective’s office in Ballyshannon Garda Station.
Judge Clarke said Gsoc had taken a decision to conduct a criminal investigation within 30 minutes of being informed of the case. This decision he said was ‘mistaken’.
The judge said Sgt Galvin and two colleagues were not initially informed they were the subject of a criminal investigation.
He also found that Sgt Galvin and his colleagues had given satisfactory explanations in relation to alleged discrepancies between their initial statements and CCTV footage of their interactions with Ms Stewart.
Judge Clarke also commented on what he called ‘the elephant in the room’ and the lack of trust between some gardai and Gsoc over the past ten years.
He said in his inquiry there was a “frequent lack of information or misunderstanding”.
There was in this case, said the judge, “a lack of adequate information to An Garda Síochána at the meeting in Ballyshannon on January 1st”.
He went on: “In particular the fact that an email, which was intended to lead to the formal communication to the three gardai concerned that they were to be the subject of a criminal investigation was inadvertently deleted in the divisional office of AGS at Letterkenny was highly unfortunate.”
He said these factors combined led to the “extraordinary situation that neither Sgt Galvin nor Gda Clancy knew they were the subject of a criminal investigation until they were contacted almost three months after the investigation commenced”.
He went on: “Even more extraordinarily Sgt Doyle was unaware he had been the subject of an investigation until he was told, after the death of Sgt Galvin, that no action was to be taken in respect of him.”
Judge Clarke said Gsoc should now consider whether it is appropriate to send files to the DPP on all cases involving a death.
“The Inquiry feels that some consideration should be given to considering whether there may not be some cases where no or so little evidence or materials are turned up in the course of a Gsoc investigation…that a referral of a file to the DPP might be considered neither necessary or truly justified.”
The family of Sgt Galvin did not want to comment today until the full report of the Clarke Inquiry is released. This has been delayed for legal reasons.
If you are affected by any of the issues in this article, contact the Samaritans on 116 123 (Ireland and UK), email email@example.com or find your local branch at www.samaritans.org