Wednesday 11 December 2019

Justice denied: Damning report outlines failures

* Damning report finds litany of failures after whistleblower ignored * New minister fails to back under-fire chief of Justice Department

Whistleblower Garda Sgt. Maurice McCabe
Whistleblower Garda Sgt. Maurice McCabe
Senior Counsel Sean Guerin. Photo: Mark Condren
The McCabe Dossier

Sgt Maurice McCabe: vindicatedFionnan Sheahan, Tom Brady and Lise Hand

THE justice system is set for a "root and branch" overhaul in the wake of a damning report which found that allegations of serious wrongdoing by gardai were ignored.

The crisis has deepened after new Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald failed three times to give her full backing to the head of her department.

The Department of Justice was severely criticised in the Guerin Report – along with Alan Shatter, An Garda Siochana and the Garda Ombudsman – for not "heeding the voice" of a garda whistleblower.

Following the resignations of Mr Shatter as Justice Minister and Martin Callinan as Garda Commissioner, the Department of Justice secretary general Brian Purcell is now in the firing line.

Ms Fitzgerald will decide Mr Purcell's fate, government sources say.

However, there is little appetite in the Coalition for further bloodletting and Taoiseach Enda Kenny indicated earlier this week that there would be no more resignations.

"We have already lost a commissioner and a minister. Where does it stop? But it's up to her (Ms Fitzgerald)," a coalition source said.

The report by senior counsel Sean Guerin examined allegations made by garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe of wrongdoing and mismanagement of investigations by gardai.

Sgt McCabe said he felt vindicated by the report and that it lifted a huge weight off his and his family's shoulders – but pointed out that he is still restricted in his use of the garda PULSE system.

"It is a good day after six years of fighting the system. Now I hope my family and I can move on," he said.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin agreed that the report vindicated Sgt McCabe.

Ms Fitzgerald said that the interim Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan was due to make a statement on Sgt McCabe's status.

Mr Kenny said a root and branch analysis of the policy and practice of the administration of justice was now needed.

He said the Dail would debate the content of the Guerin Report next week and that he would welcome the contributions of all members.

"This is not just about politics, it is about getting it right for the people of our country, for the citizens, for the next generation, for everybody to have integrity, belief and faith in An Garda Siochana, in the accountability, in the transparency in the way it is run", he said.

He said the terms of reference for the Commission of Investigation would be finalised in the coming weeks.

Asked why he thought Mr Shatter felt he had to resign as Justice Minister, Mr Kenny replied: "This is now a matter in the past. The previous minister was very clear in his judgment after reading the report."

The Guerin review pointed the finger at the Garda, the Garda Ombudsman and the Department of Justice for failing to heed the word of Sergeant Maurice McCabe after he had first raised concerns in September 2012.

"No complex organisation can expect to succeed in its task if it cannot find the means of heeding the voice of a member whose immediate supervisors hold him in the high regard in which Sgt McCabe was held," the report said.

"Ultimately, An Garda Siochana does not seem to have been able to do that.

"Nor does the Minister for Justice and Equality, despite his having an independent supervisory and investigative function with specific statutory powers.

"The same appears to be true of GSOC (Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission)."

In his report, Mr Guerin sharply criticised the failure of GSOC to hand over relevant information.


Twelve minutes before his deadline, Mr Guerin found out GSOC had legal difficulties with supplying documentation that it had promised to supply as part of the review.

He said the absence of the important documentary material had, unfortunately, been an obstacle to his attempt to assess the adequacy of the investigations conducted by GSOC.

But he pointed out that it did not interfere with the other work of his review.

In the 300-page report, which reviews Sergeant McCabe's allegations of negligent police work, Mr Guerin has called for a statutory inquiry to examine the force.

The state inquiry is being urged to examine several garda investigations which were brought to the attention of the authorities but were inadequately acted on.

These include cases involving sex offences, child abduction, false imprisonment of a girl and child pornography.

It also recommends a probe into how the former Garda Commissioner and the former minister dealt with the disturbing concerns flagged up to them.

Irish Independent

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