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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
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Limerick gardaí

High Court told four gardaí 'singled out' for suspension while '122' other officers ignored

Four gardaí have been suspended since November 2020 as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation probe the alleged cancelling of traffic tickets.

IT HAS BEEN claimed in the High Court that four gardaí were singled out for suspension unfairly by An Garda Síochána while 122 other gardaí still continued to work.

The gardaí have brought separate High Court cases alleging their continued suspensions, arising out of investigations into the alleged so-called “squaring” of fixed charge penalty notices by a senior officer, are unlawful. The senior officer cannot be identified for legal reasons. 

Squaring is garda slang describing the quashing of traffic tickets. The investigation is being led by the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI).

The judicial review of one of the gardaí, Garda Paul Baynham, started in the High Court this morning before Ms Justice Siobhán Phelan. 

Barrister Mark Harty SC for Baynham told the court that he is seeking that the court quash the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána’s November 2020 decisions to suspend them with basic pay and his later decisions to extend those suspensions. All four deny any wrongdoing and have remained suspended since 2020.

Garda Paul Baynham, had been attached to the Roads Policing Unit at Henry Street in Limerick from 2018.

The other gardaí are Alan Griffin, Niall Deegan and John Shanahan are all stationed at Henry Street Garda Station in Limerick city and members of the Road Policing Unit.

Harty said that their cases will progress through the courts alongside Baynham’s.

Opening his case today, the senior counsel outlined that the case is centred around an investigation by the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. 

Harty told the court that an investigation commenced in 2019 into “exceptionally serious criminal matters against members of An Garda Síochána in Limerick”. 

While the reason for that investigation did not progress, there was a change in focus looking at whether gardaí were “pulling charges” on the direction of senior officers. 

The senior counsel explained that 130 gardaí were the subject of the investigation and said that a limited number of members, “those subject of criminal proceedings and these four gentlemen, and one other” were suspended. In total, eight gardaí were suspended, the court heard. 

No explanation

Harty said in his submission that there was no explanation “why these four members were suspended while 122 other members subject of this investigation are not suspended”.

The senior counsel said that multiple affidavits from the NBCI for the current judicial review do not explain why the gardaí were suspended. Harty said that the suspended must “must know why I am selected for this treatment”.

Harty told the Judge that he was arguing that the unfair treatment of his client involved the delay in hearing how long his client would be suspended for and that Baynham had suffered unequal treatment.

He also said that while there was a three-month review of the suspensions by senior garda management his client was never offered an opportunity to make submissions to halt it – counsel said this was unfair. 

He also said that the arbitrary nature of the suspensions was also unlawful. 

Harty said during interviews with investigators his client was repeatedly told by NBCI interrogators that the only reason he was being questioned was to source incriminating evidence on a senior garda who was also under investigation. He said that as he spoke he was repeatedly offered affirmation with thumbs-up gestures.

“I have a man suspended, out of work, out of pocket, he tells me he is very unwell as a result of it, are you doing anything to process that investigation? There is not a scintilla of evidence, we do not know why the garda commissioner has permitted this to go on so long,” he said. 

Harty told the court that Baynham and his clients have been told that their suspensions will continue until the conclusion of the criminal and a disciplinary investigation.

“My client will be suspended until the conclusion of the disciplinary processes which is manifestly illegal as a decision being made by an Assistant Commissioner,” he added. 

Conor Power SC, acting for the Commissioner, told the court that investigation files are currently with the Director of Public Prosecutions awaiting a determination on whether there will be prosecutions or not. The Commissioner’s counsel said that this was the “cause of the ongoing issues”. 

Ms Justice Phelan asked: “It is a matter for you [the state and garda management] to stand over these suspensions for over three years which seems like an extraordinary amount of time.”

“Can the Garda Commissioner await indefinitely – is it open ended?” she added.  

Power said that there were reasons for the suspension throughout correspondence and that this was in regard to the cancelling of tickets. 

The Commissioner’s barrister also said that case was “out of time” for the unfairness of the suspension.

Power will continue his submission tomorrow.