'Shocked' judge defends criticism of gardai
A DISTRICT court judge last night defended herself in a controversy over her severe criticism of the administration of justice in the Mayo garda division.
Judge Mary Devins angered local gardai with remarks which resulted in a decision to adjourn all cases on a court list last week.
She said she had been shocked to the core when a garda admitted he had censored a witness statement to spare the blushes of a teenage girl.
And she claimed the incident had undermined her trust and confidence in the prosecution in the district.
But Chief Supt John Carey issued a statement the following day in which he stated that the judge had been made aware of "certain matters" outlined to the court last week, when the gardai first sought an adjournment a year ago to allow a re-investigation.
The case was based on a prosecution against John O'Donnell (20), from Kennedy Gardens, Castlebar. He had pleaded not guilty to a charge of delivering alcohol to a person under 18 years and three charges relating to drink and dangerous driving.
Mr O'Donnell's car crashed as he was driving his car, with a girl who is now 18 years old in the front seat, from Westport to Bertra strand.
Mr O'Donnell subsequently told Garda Linus Fahy that the girl had been touching his private parts before the car hit a wall.
But the garda did not include this statement in his evidence because, he said, he did not want to embarrass the girl.
Judge Devins dismissed all charges because she said the prosecution had been tainted with irregularities.
Last night, in a statement issued through the Courts Service, the judge denied she had been given details of "certain matters" when an adjournment of the case was sought in April 2003.
Judge Devins said the court had not been made aware of the nature of those matters and "statements to the contrary are inaccurate".
Chief Superintendent Carey said he had nothing to add to his original statement last Friday. "It speaks for itself," he said.
Representative associations for all ranks up to superintendent have sought urgent meetings with Chief Superintendent Carey arising from the judge's critical remarks.
Garda Fahy is currently the subject of a tribunal hearing set up by the Garda Complaints Board, which became involved after it had received a complaint about the case. As a result of the tribunal, the garda authorities have suspended an internal disciplinary investigation into the case.