16: A complaint alleging neglect of duty, resolved by disciplinary investigation


Background

A garda was found to be in breach of discipline for failing to properly account for money or property received in his capacity as a garda member. A woman alleged that a sum of money was missing from her wallet which had been handed in to a garda station and later returned to her.While out walking in the local park, the complainant lost her wallet. Numerous calls were made to her local garda station to find out if anyone found it and handed it in but to no avail. After a few weeks, the complainant spoke with a woman who she saw in the park the day she lost her wallet. She discovered that the woman had found the wallet and handed it in to the garda station. She confirmed there was cash inside when it was handed in. Both women then went to the garda station and queried the location of the wallet. At that time it couldn’t be found and there was no record on PULSE to say the wallet had been handed in. The complainant later received a call from the garda station stating they had located the wallet and it was subsequently returned. The complainant discovered a small amount of cash was still in the wallet but a larger sum was missing. The complainant subsequently made a complaint to GSOC that a specific sum of money was taken from her wallet. The complaint was deemed admissible and a criminal investigation ensued.

Action Taken

The GSOC investigation established the garda member who took possession of the wallet made a notebook entry stating that a small amount of cash was in the wallet when it was handed in. The garda failed to make any record on the PULSE system and failed to record and provide a receipt in accordance with Garda policy, Property and Exhibits Management Systems (PEMS). The garda stated that he intended to return the wallet when back on patrol duty later that day as an address was located in the wallet. However due to the busy evening on patrol duty this did not occur. The garda placed the wallet in a locker and subsequently forgot about it. The garda only remembered the wallet after queries were made by the complainant and the other woman at the station and the wallet was returned to the owner later that day.

During the investigation, an account was obtained from the person who handed it in who stated there was a specific sum of money in the wallet. There were no independent witnesses to say what cash was present in the wallet and there was no CCTV footage of the public office in the garda station. GSOC sent a file to the Director of Prosecution (DPP) with a recommendation that she consider an offence contrary to section 4 of the Theft and Fraud Offences Act, 2001. The DPP directed that there be no prosecution brought against the garda. GSOC decided to continue the investigation (under section 95) as a potential breach of discipline. That investigation found evidence that the actions of the garda may have amounted to neglect of duty, contrary to the Garda Discipline Regulations for failing to properly account for any money or property received by him in his capacity as a garda member.

Outcome

A report was forwarded to the Garda Commissioner identifying this evidence. The garda was found to be in breach of the Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations 2007 for neglect of duty and was subject to a monetary sanction.