Thursday 22 March 2018

Strange case of Supt Taylor and the garda 'leak' that never happened

The former force press officer returned to work last week fully cleared following his arrest in 2015

Much to reflect on: Superintendent Dave Taylor gets ready at his home to go back to work at the traffic corps at Dublin Castle
Much to reflect on: Superintendent Dave Taylor gets ready at his home to go back to work at the traffic corps at Dublin Castle
Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

Superintendent Dave Taylor was in full dress uniform when he presented himself for arrest at Balbriggan garda station in April 2015.

At the station reception area he was told he was being arrested and questioned over the 'unauthorised disclosure' of information and possible breaches of the Garda internet and electronic mail policy.

Officially, the arrest was under Section 62 of the Garda Siochana Act 2005.

This is a 'gagging' law on gardai but has relevance for the rest of the public sector. It has remained on the statute book despite apparently being superseded by the 2014 Protected Disclosures Act, or the 'whistleblowers act' as it is sometimes described.

Supt Taylor, former head of the Garda press office, would have been aware that a conviction under Section 62 carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and/or a fine of up to €75,000.

The second stage of his 'processing' was done by Chief Superintendent Frank Clerkin in proximity to the 'member-in-charge' of the station, a uniformed sergeant whose task in such circumstances is to ensure that the prisoner's rights are met under the statutes governing the duty of care to those in custody.

Chief Supt Clerkin, described as 'old school' by colleagues, would have had to make the member-in-charge at Balbriggan aware of the reason he was seeking to detain his 'prisoner'. Chief Supt Clerkin outlined the alleged offence and explained the reasons why he believed it necessary to detain and question the prisoner for an initial period of six hours

Dressed in his full uniform, Supt Taylor was told to remove his shoes, jacket, belt, watch, wedding ring and any other items of value and hand them into the station sergeant's care. He was then put in a cell to await questioning.

He was treated in exactly the same way as any suspect brought to any garda station.

Supt Taylor was then held and questioned for 22 hours. His wife, Michelle, and two daughters came to visit him during the day.

His arrest was ostensibly over the 'leaking' of information to the media relating to the seizure by gardai of two Roma children in Dublin and Athlone in October 2013.

The arrest was the apparent culmination of a six-month investigation conducted by Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan's husband Superintendent Jim McGowan, under the direction of Chief Supt Clerkin.

Gardai who spoke to the Sunday Independent at the time said there was shock about the arrest. Supt Taylor, they pointed out, was authorised by his then Commissioner Martin Callinan to speak to journalists as head of the press office.

One of Ms O'Sullivan's first acts in becoming acting commissioner was to transfer Supt Taylor from the press office to the traffic corps in Dublin Castle.

In December 2014 his garda mobile phone and laptop were taken from him for examination.

Supt Taylor, who spent much of his career pursuing republican terrorists, was a highly thought of member of the Special Detective Unit. He is a family man, not a drinker or socialiser, friends say.

He was released at around 4am the next day after 22 hours in a cell and informed he was suspended from duty, with his pay cut.

A fellow officer commented that no one in the gardai, in political, media or elsewhere in public life, spoke out about his arrest. The Garda Superintendents' Association was contacted by the Sunday Independent at the time but did not reply.

It is widely accepted in media circles that in respect of the wrongful seizure of the Roma children, the Garda press office, under Supt Taylor, played no role other than apparently confirming the initial seizure had taken place - after it had been disseminated on Facebook. News of the seizure of the child in Athlone spread quickly through the town before it became known to journalists so it, too, was not sourced from any garda 'leak'.

Last Monday, Michelle Taylor received a call on her home phone and Assistant Garda Commissioner Eugene Corcoran, head of internal affairs, passed on the news that the Director of Public Prosecutions had ruled there would be no prosecution and her husband could return to work forthwith.

The Taylors had half expected the news as the monotonous delivery every three months of the notice of his continued suspension had changed significantly at the start of this year. The re-suspension notice was for only one month and it held out the hope that an end was close.

The Taylor family was wrongly forced to undergo a very severe ordeal. While the national media and politicians have obsessed about the problems encountered by Sergeant Maurice McCabe he was never arrested, held in a cell or stripped of his uniform.

This act was perpetrated on an officer of senior rank with an unblemished career behind him and further advancement possible. The State may ultimately have to compensate the Taylors for their suffering and financial loss.

What the taxpayers who will foot the bill might want to know is why it was necessary to mount one of the biggest and most costly garda investigations in years.

The forthcoming public inquiry may provide answers to that question, though of course with considerable expense to the taxpayer in its own right.

Sunday Independent

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