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Gardai accuse watchdog of smoke screen in four-year collusion probe

A FURIOUS row has erupted between the gardai and their independent watchdog over the results of a four-year investigation into alleged collusion between senior officers and a convicted drug trafficker.

The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) launched a withering attack on the force over the Kieran Boylan affair and branded the actions of some officers highly unsatisfactory and detrimental to its inquiry.

The watchdog also announced that it found several "deficiencies" in how gardai managed informants in the past and raised concerns about the current system.

GSOC Commissioner Kieran FitzGerald also blamed delays by gardai in handing over key documents during the probe into the relationship between Boylan and senior officers.

However, the GSOC comments have angered garda management. "This is just a smoke screen to deflect criticisms about his own investigation," said one senior officer.

Separately, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan complained that GSOC hadn't given him a chance to respond to the agency's concerns beforehand. It is understood that the watchdog's findings were only sent to Garda HQ on Tuesday evening.

The Commissioner said it was "a matter of great regret" that the watchdog had blamed gardai for the "long delay in carrying out their investigation".

The DPP has already found no evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of the officers, after it examined a file provided by GSOC. And GSOC also conceded that it does not intend to pursue any disciplinary action against the same detectives.

As the row rumbled on, Justice Minister Alan Shatter took the unprecedented step of publishing a report from the High Court judge tasked with monitoring the garda informant system – known as Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS).

In the report, first sent to the minister last October, Mr Justice Thomas Smyth said he was satisfied that gardai were "in substantial compliance" with CHIS guidelines – contradicting GSOC's views. Mr Shatter said he intends convening a meeting between garda management and GSOC to resolve the row.

The GSOC investigation was first launched after allegations emerged of collusion between gardai and Boylan, a convicted international drug trafficker.

While the Ombudsman Commission did not publish the full report yesterday, it released a statement giving limited details on its findings.

The GSOC probe found "deficiencies" in a system of managing informants between 2002 and 2006, "in particular in relation to one garda unit".

They include "absence of training" and "a culture of non-adherence" to the system.

It stated that the deficiencies "led to unnecessary risks in the handling" of informants and "weakened strategies" for testing the quality of the information provided.

Last night a GSOC spokesman said: "The report we released today highlights the delays we have encountered during the course of this investigation in getting information from An Garda Siochana, which we have described as highly unsatisfactory."

One garda officer told the Irish Independent: "Blaming the gardai for causing the delay in finalising their investigation is intended to deflect from the deficiencies in GSOC's own investigation.

"Mr FitzGerald went way above the remit of the GSOC in the comments that he made. The truth is that all the documents requested by GSOC were supplied with the exception of one. This has seriously damaged relations between the garda organisation and GSOC."

Misunderstandings

And Commissioner Callinan said: "The (GSOC) decided not to give An Garda Siochana an opportunity to respond to these findings in advance so that our views could be taken into account and that we could address comprehensively any misunderstandings or issues which may have arisen."

The Commissioner said that when considering the GSOC findings it was important not to lose sight of the "key point" that the DPP directed that there should be no prosecutions.

The Justice Minister welcomed the conclusion of the GSOC investigation and that the DPP had found no evidence to sustain criminal charges.

Irish Independent