A GARDA who acted as liaison officer with the family of murdered teenager Raonaid Murray has won a Supreme Court appeal stopping disciplinary proceedings alleging discreditable and insensitive conduct by him, including allegedly urinating on a tree at the scene of the killing.
It was also alleged he drove the dead girl's sister, Sarah, her cousin and one of Sarah's friends home from a nightclub at a time when he had consumed a number of pints of beer.
Garda Ian Gillen (50), Kill O'The Grange station, was subjected to internal disciplinary proceedings after a complaint from the Murray family about his behaviour was deemed inadmissible by the Garda Complaints Board in May 2004 because the complaint had not been made within the required six months.
Yesterday, Mr Justice William McKechnie, on behalf of the three-judge Supreme Court, ruled the garda disciplinary regulations required that any investigation into breaches must be carried out expeditiously.
This had not been done in this case and the court was therefore allowing Garda Gillen's appeal.
Given the role gardai play in society, and which the public play in supporting the force, it is critical for all concerned that the mere suggestion of misconduct should be dealt with expeditiously, he said.
"Clouds of suspicion, mistrust and uncertainty cannot be let gather", he said.
Garda Gillen was appointed as liaison officer with the Murray family after their daughter Raonaid (17) was brutally murdered in a laneway in September 1999 near her home at Silchester Park, Glenageary.
Though there were 12 arrests in the investigation, no one has ever been charged to this day.
Nearly six weeks after the murder, and following the appointment as liaison officer to give practical help to the family, it was alleged he breached garda discipline by driving Sarah, cousin Audrey Territ and friend Jane Bridgeman from Baker's Corner pub to the Club Bar in Dalkey having already consumed a number of pints of beer.
It was further alleged that Garda Gillen, in the presence of Ms Bridgeman, urinated on a tree at the scene where the crime allegedly took place.
Garda Gillen denied he was guilty of any of the alleged breaches of discipline and he went to the High Court in February 2005 to stop the disciplinary proceedings. He claimed the delay adversely affected his conditions of employment and promotion.
In 2006, the High Court's Mr Justice Roderick Murphy refused to halt the disciplinary proceedings against him.
The High Court heard that at the time of the alleged breaches, the Murray family verbally outlined their concerns to the gardai but did not make a written complaint and reserved their right to make a complaint at a later stage.
In April 2002, following queries raised by the Murrays, they were told a complaint to the Garda Complaints Board took precedence over an internal disciplinary inquiry. When the Garda Complaints Board made a decision in May 2004 that the Murrays complaint was inadmissible, a senior garda officer was appointed to investigate the alleged breaches.
Immediately after the incident, Mr and Mrs Murray indicated they did not want Garda Gillen to continue as liaison officer and he was removed.
The High Court's Mr Justice Murphy found there was a delay of over five years before the book of statements was served on Garda Gillen and the delay caused by the inadmissible complaint by the Murrays to the Complaints Board accounted for one of those five years.
Mr Justice Murphy said the court should not intervene where procedures have been followed and he was satisfied that the garda authorities applied fair procedures.