A FOUR-YEAR investigation into alleged collusion between senior gardai and an international drug trafficker found “grave concern” about garda procedures for managing informants.
The investigation by independent watchdog, the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), recorded several “deficiencies” in how Gardai both managed informants in the past and raised concerns about the current system in place.
GSOC was also highly critical of the level of cooperation they received from the gardai, highlighting numerous delays in members of the force handing over key documents.
The agency said it was not revealing any details of the individuals involved due to concerns for their safety and that special reports have been sent to Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.
GSOC has made recommendations have been made in these reports but refused to reveal the details of those recommendations.
The investigation was launched after allegations emerged of collusion between Gardai and informant Kieran Boylan, a convicted drug dealer.
A spokesman for the agency said it would not comment on reports that have previously named individuals and associated them with their investigation.
GSOC sent a file based on the inquiry to the DPP in December, with the DPP deciding not to pursue charges against any of the individuals involved.
While the Ombudsman Commission did not publish the full report today, it released a statement giving limited details on its findings.
The GSOC investigation found:
· “Deficiencies” in a system of managing informants in place between 2002 and 2006 “in particular in relation to one garda unit”.
· They include “absence of training”, “lack of awareness” of the informant handling system.
· “A culture of non-adherence” to the system.
· It states that the deficiencies “led to unnecessary risks in the handling and management of informants”
· And “weakened strategies for testing the quality of the information provided.
· It found “a failure to critically examine the motivations for supply of information” in some garda units
The report notes that a new informant management system was introduced in 2006 and states that GSOC “does not believe that all deficiencies in the original system were fully remedied.
“This presented the risk that information could continue to be collected from informants by gardai in an ad hoc manner outside of stated Garda Siochana informant-handling policies
And the agency was highly critical of gardai for delaying their inquiry.
Under protocols agreed in 2007 gardai are obliged to hand over information to GSOC within 30 days.
According to the agency, of the 63 requests for information made:
Just 17 were processed within 30 days, seven took more than a year, two more than 18 months and one request “remained outstanding at the close of the investigation”.
Gardai gave reasons of “state security, police tradecraft and a desire for reassurance that information would not be released to a third party” for the delays.
According to GSOC “The Ombudsman Commission considers this level of cooperation by the Garda Siochana highly unsatisfactory.
Commissioner Callinan last November insisted that gardai had “facilitated fully all of the inquiries that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission have requested.”
According to GSOC’s statement today, delays in the release of the information “had a significant detrimental impact on the investigation in terms of timeliness and completeness.”
The statement concludes that “the deficiencies it (the GSOC investigation) identified give rise to matters of grave concern regarding Garda Siochana practices in relation to the implementation and management of informant handling procedures, both historic and current”.
It also questioned the Garda Siochana’s “commitment to its own policy in relation to those procedures”.
“In light of these concerns, a special report, containing detailed recommendations, has been submitted to the Minister for Justice”.
Boylan, from Ardee Co Louth was arrested in 2005 in connection with the seizure of drugs worth €1.7m.
He had been at bail at the time having been charged with possession of cocaine and heroin in 2003 and he was later jailed for five years for that offence.
The state later dropped the 2005 charges and Boylan was released when his sentence was served.
It’s understood that the Garda Siochana’s decision to drop the charges as well as the level of information Boylan gave as an informant, was examined by GSOC.
Mr Callinan responded to the GSOC criticism over cooperation from Gardai in supplying them with information complained that the agency hadn’t given them a chance to respond to the agency’s concerns prior to today’s release of the statement on the investigation.
He said: “it is a matter of great regret” that the agency blamed delays in the enquiry on “due mainly to difficulties which they perceived were experienced by the investigation team in obtaining evidence from An Garda Siochana”.
He said that GSOC had not given the gardai an opportunity to respond to these findings in advance “so that our views could be taken into account” and so that “we could address comprehensively any misunderstandings or issues that may have arisen.”
He said that GSOC was entitled to “reach any conclusions which they wished” but that “at least it would have provided a proper opportunity, in fairness, to have a full picture given the voluminous materials furnished in response to their requests”.
He reiterated his that he was “determined” that the gardai would cooperate “as fully as possible” with the GSOC inquiry and said he was “concerned” that existing protocols for the exchange of information “do not work in the interests” of either party.
“I am anxious that this matter be resolved as quickly as possible”, Mr Callinan added.
“It is clearly vital that neither organisation does anything which would tend to undermine public confidence in the procedures for investigating allegations made against Gardai.”
He welcomed the conclusion of the investigation and the DPP’s decsision that there should be no prosecutions in the case.
According to Mr Callinan, Minister Shatter has asked for his observations on the reports’ findings and recommendations.
He said: “It is obviously proper that I should first respond in detail to him, setting out the difficult issues which arose for the gardai in an inquiry of such a sensitive nature.”
Addressing issues raised in relation to the Gardai’s procedures for managing informants Mr Callinan said it was a “crucial issue” in the tackling of serious crime, including “the threat posed by paramilitary groups” that the identities of informants are protected.
He said that a High Court judge has been monitoring the covert human intelligence system since 2010 and has reported that gardai “are in substantial compliance with that system”.