Paul Williams: 'Compassionate, thorough Garda investigation one of few positives from case'
The Garda handling of the investigation into the murder of Ana Kriegel is the only positive that can be taken from this unconscionable tragedy, in that it at least gave her grief-stricken parents some tiny bit of solace knowing that their daughter's killers were brought to justice.
But of course, that will never mitigate the life sentence that they have been left to endure.
What happened to this child at the hands of two apparently normal 13-year-old boys, from stable family backgrounds, is the stuff of every parent's nightmare.
And now that the harrowing marathon trial is at an end, during which every distressing detail was laid bare, wider society has been left questioning how this could have happened.
That is why the only meagre consolation that can be taken from the whole disturbing episode is that the gardaí solved the crime and brought those responsible to justice.
It is a fact that when compared with their international colleagues, An Garda Síochána enjoys a top-class record of success in the investigation of serious crime.
From the first hours after Ana was first reported missing, the various professional groups within the organisation did their jobs to perfection.
It was the professional instincts of the gardaí which first spotted suspicious, unspoken exchanges between Boys A and B before Ana's body was found when they were brought through the park. The officers decided to separately take official statements from the boys and the inconsistencies began to mount up.
Once Ana's body had been located and the decision taken to arrest the boys, the gardaí were facing the most challenging inquiry that any garda could face. The investigation was meticulously organised, with the primary concern being that of ensuring that everything that happened next was within the precepts of the Children Act of 2001.
In fact, where necessary, the gardaí used their discretion to go over and above what was required, as indeed did the lawyers and judiciary in the subsequent process.
Gardaí even used rental cars instead of squad cars when they went to search the homes of the two boys, so as not to bring unwarranted attention. And when the boys were charged, the gardaí sent discreet patrols to watch over their families, in case an angry, misguided citizen decided to take the law into their own hands.
At the Garda stations where the boys were initially questioned, the stations were closed to other prisoners and special overnight sleeping arrangements.
Throughout the process, the detectives interviewing the boys rigorously stuck to the rules, so that they could not be later accused in court of pressurising the children.
An Garda Síochána use what is referred to as the investigative interview technique, which is also used in the UK and many other European countries, and is contrary to the flawed accusatory system used in the US and Canada.
The essential difference is that the investigative or information-gathering interview involves building a rapport with the suspect and then asking open-ended questions in order to obtain the suspect's account and then to check its authenticity by questioning and testing it against other evidence.
It was this methodical and careful approach that essentially elicited the information from Boy B which led to his conviction. In the case of Boy A, who seemed better at covering his tracks, there was also a large amount of indisputable forensic evidence which the gardaí did not have with regard to Boy B.
The fact that very little of the evidence accumulated by the gardaí was thrown out bore testimony to the meticulous conduct of the investigation.
The gardaí, the lawyers and the judges involved in the whole process showed great compassion and understanding of the rights and dignity of all those involved.