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Inquiry into death by suicide of Donegal Garda Sergeant is published

Report recommends greater transparency from GSOC

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Inquiry into death by suicide of Donegal Garda Sergeant is published

The late garda sergeant Michael Galvin

A judicial inquiry into the death by suicide of a Ballyshannon-based garda sergeant, Michael Galvin, recommends that more detailed information be made available to garda members about the way in which the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) investigations are carried out.  

Mr Justice Frank Clarke who carried out the inquiry said “some mistakes were made, some policies and practices have been shown to be inadequate”. However,  he concluded that no GSOC officers were guilty of any gross error. 

In its conclusions, the inquiry "notes the extreme distress which this sequence of events caused for the family, friends and colleagues of Sgt Galvin".

The inquiry also concluded it would not be appropriate to level specific personal criticism at any GSOC-designated officers.

The report contains a number of recommendations, including the need to review the 2005 Act to address issues related to the scope of inquiries under section 109. It also makes a number of recommendations related to practices and procedures by Gsoc concerning how investigations are designated as criminal or disciplinary investigations and the conduct of those investigations.

Commenting on how information in relation to the investigation was disseminated, the inquiry found it would have been "significantly preferable" if greater coordination had taken place to ensure information was not imparted to the media by GSOC before there had been sufficient contact with the sergeant's family.

Sgt Michael Galvin was one of three Ballyshannon-based gardaí investigated by GSOC after 33-year-old Sheena Stewart died in a road crash on Main Street, Ballyshannon, on New Year's Morning, 2015. The other gardai being investigated were Sgt Stewart Doyle and Garda John Clancy.

Neither Sergeant Galvin nor Garda Clancy knew they were the subject of a criminal investigation until they were contacted to present themselves for an interview three months after it started.

The report states that Sergeant Doyle was not aware he was being investigated until after the death of Sergeant Galvin. He found out he had been the subject of this criminal investigation when he was informed that no action was to be taken in respect of him.

“It was very clear from all of the evidence heard by the inquiry that both the family and friends of Sergeant Galvin and also his colleagues in An Garda Síochána were extremely upset and distressed by the way in which the matter was handled,” the judge said.

His report confirms that an email intended to lead to the formal communication to the three gardaí concerned that they were the subject of a criminal investigation, was inadvertently deleted in the divisional office of An Garda Síochána at Letterkenny. Mr Justice Clarke describes this as  "highly unfortunate". 

The judge said it was extraordinary that the three gardaí concerned were not made aware that there was a criminal investigation in being and, in particular, that they were the subject of that investigation.  "Thereafter the GSOC investigation continued in what would appear to be a relatively normal fashion save for the fact that, quite extraordinarily, the three gardaí concerned were not made aware that there was a criminal investigation in being and, in particular, that they were the subject of that investigation."

In his introduction to the 203 page report, Mr Justice Clarke stated that the circumstances into which the inquiry was required to delve, to a large extent, "started and ended with tragedy". 

He stated: "In the early hours of New Year’s morning 2015 Ms Sheena Stewart was killed in a road traffic accident [in Ballyshannon]. In the early hours of the 28th May of that year the body of Sgt Michael Galvin was discovered in Ballyshannon garda station at approximately 7.00am. 

"In the intervening period GSOC had commenced, conducted and, to a very large extent, completed what turned out to be a criminal investigation into the conduct of members of An Garda Síochána (including Sgt Galvin) in the period immediately prior to the death of Ms Stewart. 

"While the precise status of that investigation at the time of Sgt Galvin’s death is a matter that requires to be explored in some detail, it is fair to say that, so far as the carrying out of the investigation itself was concerned, same had largely concluded on the basis of, at a minimum, a clear recommendation that there should be no prosecution either of Sgt Galvin or any other of the gardaí concerned. 

"At least in a colloquial sense it can be said that the gardaí concerned had, in substance, been cleared by the GSOC investigation.  The death of Ms Stewart was, indeed, a tragedy. That those tragic circumstances required to be investigated can hardly be doubted although there is controversy, which will be addressed in the course of this report, as to whether the form of criminal investigation adopted by GSOC was appropriate in the circumstances.

"However, after a thorough investigation, a clear decision was made by the investigating officers, supported by in-house legal advice, that no prosecution should follow. 

"There has been no suggestion, nor would the Inquiry feel that there could be any valid suggestion, that the GSOC investigating officers concerned were wrong in reaching the conclusions which they did. In that sense the great tragedy of Ms Stewart’s death did lead to thorough investigation but also led to the conclusion that, at least so far as An Garda Síochána were concerned, nothing inappropriate had occurred."

Mr Clarke further noted: "One of the clear impressions which came over to this inquiry was that at least part of the problem stems from a lack of proper understanding among members of An Garda Síochána as to the way GSOC is required to and does carry out its role. It is outside this inquiry’s remit to apportion blame for that state of affairs and it would, indeed, be dangerous for this inquiry to attempt so to do given that its focus has been on a single Gsoc investigation albeit one which had such tragic consequences."

Among his recommendations, the judge states that more detailed information be made available to garda members about the way in which GSOC investigations are carried out. 

LACK OF INFORMATION

In his summary of conclusions he refers to a lack of information or understanding which became apparent.

He states: "In that context the Inquiry notes that much of the evidence betrayed a significant lack of information and misunderstanding on the part of many gardaí as to the precise role, remit and practice of GSOC . The Inquiry notes that some of the lack of understanding which arose in the context of this case is specific to the circumstances investigated. 

"The lack of adequate communication to An Garda Síochána at the meeting in Ballyshannon on the 1st January is a case in point. In particular the fact that an email, which was intended to lead to the formal communication to the three gardaí concerned that they were the subject of a criminal investigation, was inadvertently deleted in the divisional office of An Garda Síochána at Letterkenny was highly unfortunate. 

"These factors combined to lead to the extraordinary situation that neither Sgt [Michael] Galvin nor Gda [John] Clancy knew that they were the subject of a criminal investigation until they were contacted (almost three months after the investigation commenced) about a requirement that they present themselves for a cautioned interview. Even more extraordinarily Sgt [Stewart] Doyle was unaware that he had been the subject of investigation until he was told, after the death of Sgt Galvin, that no action was to be taken in respect of him. 

In a section entitled "Part III - The Facts", Mr Clarke makes a number of observations about the late Sgt Galvin, notably: "From an early stage it became very apparent to the Inquiry that Sergeant Michael Galvin was a member of An Garda Síochána of exceptional integrity who was a consummate gentleman and an exemplary sergeant. Moreover, he was an individual who was intrinsically involved in his community on a voluntary basis, from being on the Board of Management at his children’s school, to helping with the Tidy Towns competition and was clearly a mainstay within his community of Manorhamilton. 

"Undoubtedly he was utterly devoted to his wife, Colette, and their three children and has been consistently described as both an excellent husband and father. The testimony of each and every witness who knew Sgt Galvin was entirely consistent in describing him in the fashion just described. The testimonial of those witnesses went very far indeed beyond the sort of kind words that might often be spoken in tragic circumstances. 

"There can be no doubt on the evidence but that Sgt Galvin was both an outstanding member of An Garda Síochána and also an outstanding person."

Mr Justice Clarke further noted how Sgt Galvin had in fact volunteered to cover for a colleague on the night of Ms Stewart's tragic death: "Perhaps one of the most tragic aspects of this case is that it is apparent on the evidence that Sgt Galvin had volunteered to go into the Garda station to help his colleagues on New Year’s Eve night. 

"One colleague had asked to be relieved from duty because of a difficult family situation. It is clear that Sgt Galvin immediately volunteered to take the place of the colleague concerned on what obviously had the potential to be a difficult roster. It is, indeed, ironic that Sgt Galvin, but for volunteering in that manner, would not have been on duty at any time which would have led him to have had any involvement with Ms Sheena Stewart. 

"It was generally observed that this selfless action was testament to the type of diligent, conscientious, principled colleague that he was."

AGSI STATEMENT

In a statement following the publication of the report the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors say they are now seeking a  meeting with Gsoc to discuss the communications element of Mr Justice Frank Clarke’s investigation into the death of Sgt Galvin.

The AGSI stated they are now calling on GSOC to conduct the business of its investigations in a more open and transparent fashion in the future to reduce the anxiety and distress for members under investigation.   


The AGSI say they note and agree with the comments of Justice Clarke who recognised that: “Sergeant Michael Galvin was a member of An Garda Síochána of exceptional integrity who was a consummate gentleman and an exemplary sergeant. There can be no doubt that Sergeant Galvin was both an outstanding member of An Garda Síochána and also an outstanding person”.
 
The AGSI also noted in their statement  that: “Sergeant Michael Galvin was not involved in any wrong-doing. This is, and was, the clear outcome of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC ) inquiry completed in May 2017.” 


General Secretary, John Jacob said there can be no doubt that Sergeant Galvin was both an outstanding member of An Garda Síochána and also an outstanding person. He also says it must be emphasisd at every turn that Sergeant Galvin was not involved in any wrong-doing.

He added: “In making this statement, we are acutely aware of the pain of the Galvin family. Michael’s death was a great loss his wife, children and wider family circle and they continue to grieve the loss of husband, father and son. Michael’s colleagues are also reminded of their great loss with the publication of this report.” 

The full report is available at:

http://justice.ie/en/JELR/ Pages/Justice_Clarke_Report_% 20concerning_an_Inquiry_ pursuant_to_Section_109_of_ the_Garda_Siochana_Act_2005

BACKGROUND

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan T.D., today (Friday, July 6) published the report of the inquiry conducted under section 109 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 by Mr. Justice Frank Clarke of the Supreme Court. The inquiry was initiated following the tragic death of Sergeant Michael Galvin in May 2015.

In June 2016, Part 1 of the report was published on the Department’s website. A number of legal issues prevented publication of the full report at that time. Those impediments no longer exist and the Minister now considers it appropriate to publish the report with some minor redactions to remove references to an unconnected party.

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If you have been impacted by this story or need to talk, please contact:

Samaritans 116 123 or text 087 2 60 90 90
Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
Pieta House 1800 247 247 or email mary@pieta.ie (suicide, self-harm)
Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)  

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