3: A complaint of neglect of duty, resolved by supervised disciplinary investigation


Background:

A person witnessed a family member fatally injured when hit by a car. She contacted to the Garda Ombudsman to request a review of the garda investigation, which she believed was influenced by the fact that the driver of the car was related to a garda.

Action taken:

Although the complaint was out of time, it was considered that there was good reason given for this and the complaint was admitted for investigation. There were a series of specific allegations made within the complaint, all pertaining to neglect of duty by two garda members who undertook the road traffic investigation. Given the seriousness of the allegations, a disciplinary investigation by the Garda Síochána supervised by a Garda Ombudsman investigator was deemed most appropriate. A Garda Ombudsman investigator and a Garda Superintendent were assigned to work on the case together.

The complainant was interviewed and gave a statement similar in detail to that given at the time of the fatal road traffic incident. The garda investigation was fully reviewed and assessed for any evidence of neglect of duty. It was found that important details of the complainant’s statements, including that the car struck the victim after mounting the footpath and that the driver left the scene of the incident, were at variance with statements given by several other witnesses and the evidence of the forensic collision investigator.**

The forensic evidence was submitted for review to a specialist at Garda College, Templemore, who submitted a report indicating his own findings and rationale, based on the forensic evidence, and these did not differ from those in the original forensic report. It was considered whether the garda members were in neglect of duty for not breathalysing the driver, but this was not a requirement by law at the time, given that they did not have reason to suspect that the driver may have consumed any alcohol. An allegation that the complainant’s original statement was not included in the file sent to the DPP was also investigated, but correspondence from the DPP showed that it had been included.

Outcome:

It was found that there had not been a breach of discipline by neglect of duty on the part of either of the garda members concerned. The findings were explained to the complainant and the garda members concerned were also informed. While the outcome did not uphold the allegations made by the complainant, it is hoped that the fact that her concerns were taken seriously and that a robust, independently supervised investigation was undertaken, will help to provide some peace of mind to the complainant and her family in this tragic matter.

* This type of investigation is allowed for by section 94 of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005.

** This is not uncommon in traumatic situations.