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Press Release 17-06-2016

Report by Justice Frank Clarke to be considered carefully by Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission with a view to taking any appropriate action

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has received the report by Justice Frank Clarke, from the Minister for Justice and Equality. (The Minister has also published a section of the report, including its conclusions and recommendation, which is available here: http://bit.ly/1ZWeMoJ )

The judge undertook an inquiry under section 109 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 into the conduct of designated officers of the Ombudsman Commission, after a Garda member, Sergeant Michael Galvin, took his own life in 2015 and it was found that he had been previously interviewed under caution in the context of a GSOC investigation into a fatal road traffic incident.

The Ombudsman Commission was very aware that the extensive speculation in the media at the time had the potential to damage public confidence in the police oversight system, and called on the Minister for Justice to consider appointing a judicial figure to examine GSOC’s interaction with Sergeant Galvin.

The Commission welcomes the finding of the independent inquiry that GSOC's officers undertook their duties properly in relation to the investigation of the road death. In particular, in relation to contact between GSOC officers and Garda members subject of the investigation, the Judge noted that "no materials or evidence came to light to suggest that the relevant interviews were conducted in anything other than a professional and appropriate fashion".

The Judge found that the decision to designate the fatality as a matter for criminal investigation was made too quickly after receiving the referral. However the Inquiry found that the decision "was taken bona fide and, in the light of the lack of clarity which is to be found in the legislation itself, the Inquiry has come to the view that it must conclude that the decisions respectively to recommend and designate the investigation as a criminal investigation, while mistaken, would not justify any action being taken against individuals concerned." The report also clarified that "while it views the decision to instigate a criminal investigation at the time when that decision was taken as having been mistaken, this should not be taken to mean that the Inquiry feels that no criminal investigation at all could properly have been instigated".

Justice Clarke’s report recommends that "the legislation be reviewed to bring greater clarity to that important question". The Judge made a number of other recommendations. The comprehensive report, including the recommendations, was received by the Ombudsman Commission yesterday afternoon. It will be given the careful consideration it deserves over the coming weeks and the Commission will decide on any actions that should be implemented.

The tragic events which have given rise to this Inquiry have directly affected two families, the Stewarts and the Galvins, who have had to deal with the grief of the loss of a loved one. We express once again our sympathies to both families. We are very aware of respecting their grief and their right to privacy.

ENDS

Note for Editors:
Terms of Reference for the Inquiry:
“An inquiry into the conduct of designated officers of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission in performing functions under section 98 or 99 of the 2005 Act in relation to the investigation by the Ombudsman Commission in the matter referred to it by the Garda Commissioner on 1 January 2015 under section 102(1) of the 2005 Act, that matter being the contact which members of the Garda Síochána had with Ms Sheena Stewart in the early hours of 1 January in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal, shortly prior to Ms Stewart’s death in a road traffic collision.”


Lorna Lee
Head of Communications
Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission

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