2: A complaint of abuse of authority, resolved by unsupervised disciplinary investigation


Background:

A complaint was made to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (“GSOC”) where it was alleged by a complainant that he was stopped, handcuffed and brought to a Garda station for a drugs search for no reason. He further alleged that he was strip searched and was regularly stopped by Gardaí for no reason.

Action taken:

The complaint was admitted and designated as a possible breach of discipline (as defined by the Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations, 2007). This meant it was suitable for unsupervised investigation by the Garda Síochána. An investigation was conducted by a Garda Superintendent. A detailed statement of complaint was taken from the complainant and the Garda concerned was notified of the complaint against him. No civilian witnesses were identified. Accounts were obtained from Garda witnesses and the Garda concerned was interviewed. The Garda Superintendent concluded that the Garda concerned was not in breach of discipline and informed the complainant and Garda accordingly.

The complainant was dissatisfied with the outcome and he requested that GSOC review the investigation. (Section 94(10) of the Act affords complainants the right to seek a review by GSOC if they are dissatisfied with the results of an unsupervised investigation or with any disciplinary proceedings instituted as a result of that investigation.)

A GSOC Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) was appointed to review the investigation. The SIO was satisfied that a reasonable and proportionate investigation was carried out by the Garda Superintendent. The Garda concerned had, during interview, provided reasonable grounds for arresting the complainant under the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977/84, for the purposes of a drugs search. The use of handcuffs was also justifiable in the circumstances, as the complainant had a documented history of aggressive behaviour towards Gardaí. Although the complainant alleged he was strip-searched, it became clear that the complainant was not required to remove all of his clothing, and the evidence supported a finding that the search was lawfully and properly conducted.  A review of Garda documentation also indicated that the complainant was not the subject of undue or undeserved Garda attention.

Outcome:

In summary, the GSOC SIO agreed with the Garda Superintendent who originally investigated the complaint, concluding that there was no breach of discipline against any Garda member. Accordingly, no further action was taken and the complaint was closed.

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