Garda wins order quashing ‘resign or be sacked’ decision

A Garda has won a High Court order quashing a decision that he either resign or be sacked for breaches of discipline arising from allegations including of an inappropriate sexual relationship and harassing a woman by phone.

Mr Justice Michael Moriarty has directed the Garda Commissioner should reconsider the appropriate sanction in line with the court’s findings.

Garda Colm O’Flaherty, now stationed in Togher, Cork, sought judicial review after the then Garda commissioner, Martin Callinan, decided in 2014 he either resign or be dismissed after Garda O’Flaherty made certain admissions before a Garda board of inquiry into alleged breaches of discipline.

Garda O’Flaherty, who denied the allegations against him, had claimed, following negotiations, he entered into an arrangement with a Garda superintendent, a member of the board of inquiry, that, if he made certain admissions, he would get a monetary fine only.

Following his admissions, the commissioner substituted the fine and said Garda O’Flaherty must resign or face being dismissed.

Alleged discreditable conduct

Garda O’Flaherty was accused of breaches of discipline including of alleged discreditable conduct concerning an alleged inappropriate sexual relationship with a female, and harassing her by phone.

Other allegations included those of improper practice concerning demanding sexual acts from her on the threat of issuing summons and taking other legal action.

It was also claimed he had abused authority in allegedly accessing Pulse computer records in relation to a person who did not form part of his duties.

The Garda was investigated in respect of those allegations by Gsoc some seven years ago and had been suspended from duty.

The DPP directed no criminal prosecution be brought against him.

Disciplinary action recommended

Gsoc later furnished a report to the Garda commissioner recommending disciplinary action against him and in 2013 a three-member Garda board of inquiry was set up to conduct the disciplinary procedure.

Garda O’Flaherty claimed, following negotiations, he entered an agreement in relation to the allegations with a Garda superintendent, a member of the inquiry board.

Garda O’Flaherty claimed, under that agreement, he entered guilty pleas to the breaches of discipline alleged against him.

The guilty pleas had been tendered in the specific circumstances where it was understood the superintendent involved had contacted Garda headquarters and had obtained certain assurances, he claimed.

The superintendent, it was claimed, assured Garda O’Flaherty’s solicitor he had it “guaranteed from the top”, in the event of the guilty pleas, there would be only a monetary penalty.

However, the Garda commissioner then determined the penalty for the breaches of discipline should be that Garda O’Flaherty resign or else be dismissed.

Garda O’Flaherty’s action was opposed by the commissioner, who denied the claims.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Moriarty said the courts “should not lightly or capriciously intervene in Garda disciplinary matters”.

There is a clear public interest in seeking to ensure complaints against individual Garda members are investigated and ruled upon in a fair, professional and prompt manner, he said.

‘Troubling case’

Based on the court’s factual findings in this “troubling case”, Garda O’Flaherty had successfully grounded his claim, he ruled. This was due to the commissioner’s failure to respect the Garda’s legitimate expectation his admissions would result in a monetary sanction, he said.

In the circumstances, the judge said he was quashing the commissioner’s decision and remitting the matter to the commissioner for due consideration in light of all that has transpired.

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