Tuesday 16 January 2018

Report rejects top civil servant's claim he was not told of garda tapes

Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan
Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The Fennelly Commission has rejected claims by the former head of the Department of Justice that the former Garda Commissioner did not inform him of the garda tapes controversy.

Mr Justice Nial Fennelly said it was "a matter of probability" that ex-commissioner Martin Callinan informed Brian Purcell of the matter in a telephone conversation some time after November 22, 2013.

This was three months before the Department of Justice was officially made aware of the issue by the Office of the Chief State Solicitor.

Mr Purcell had denied to the commission that any such conversation took place, saying he had "absolutely no memory" of it.

The commission said it was satisfied there was a conversation. However, it was not convinced that the commissioner conveyed to Mr Purcell any real sense that the matter was important "as Mr Purcell would have been very likely to remember if he had".

According to the report Mr Callinan first because aware of the recordings, some of which related to the investigation into the death of French woman Sophie Toscan du Plantier, in October 2013.

The report said Mr Callinan ordered the immediate cessation of the recording of calls into and out of garda stations - other than 999 calls - once he became aware of the existence of the practice.

The discovery of the recordings was especially sensitive as the State was preparing to defend a lawsuit from Ian Bailey, a former suspect in the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier. Mr Bailey was suing the force for alleged unlawful arrest, a case he would subsequently lose.

Mr Callinan was informed that in excess of 4,000 hours of recordings had been found in Bandon Garda Station and the people involved had not known they were being recorded.

He was briefed that a number of potentially relevant and unhelpful recordings had been identified. A working group was established to oversee the gathering of the tapes, a process which took several months.

The department was informed of the issue by the Office of the Chief State Solicitor at the end of February 2014.

According to the report, Mr Callinan insisted he had intended from the outset to make a written report to the secretary general but needed the full facts at his disposal. However, he accepted he could have reported in writing in November 2013.

Irish Independent

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