Carthy challenges GSOC on delays into Shane O’Farrell investigation
Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has again raised in the Dáil the case of Shane O’Farrell from Carrickmacross who was killed in a hit-and run in August 2011.
Deputy Carthy called on the government to initiate a public enquiry into the killing and the actions of state agencies, including the Gardaí, before and after Shane’s death.
In the Dáil chamber during Taoiseach’s Questions Deputy Carthy reminded Micháel Martin of his remarks while in opposition on the case. And last Thursday, at the Public Accounts Committee, Carthy challenged the Garda Siochána Ombudsman Commission (GSCOC) into their role in investigating Garda failures on the case.
Speaking during Taoiseach’s questions last Tuesday Carthy said:
“The scoping exercise into the death of Shane O’Farrell was established by the previous Government more than three years ago. By their nature, scoping exercises are expected to take weeks, possibly months but not years, and yet three years on from the initiation of that exercise we have no idea as to when that work will be finished.
“Members will recall that nobody bar the previous Cabinet wanted this scoping exercise. Both Houses of the Oireachtas unanimously passed motions calling for the establishment of an inquiry. In 2018, the Taoiseach, when on this side of the House, stated: “In all honesty and sincerity, it is time the Oireachtas responded in the only way possible to Shane’s death, which is the establishment of an inquiry.” The Taoiseach was right then and his case is even more valid now.
“The failures of the policing and justice system that led up to Shane’s death and the actions thereafter and to this day are significant not only to his family, but are in the wider public interest. We acknowledge the independence of Judge Haughton who is carrying out the scoping exercise and we know that Government cannot interfere, but will the Taoiseach accept that the scoping exercise as a process has not worked and that it has become yet another protracted delay to advancing the inquiry that we have all agreed is necessary?
“The Taoiseach took a very firm stance on this matter when in opposition, and rightly so. I ask that he follow it through”.
GSOC before Public Accounts Committee
On Thursday last GSOC commissioners were before the Public Accounts Committee. In his intervention, Deputy Carthy utilised the example of the Shane O’Farrell case to emphasise that GSOC often, rather than delivering answers, serves to delay and frustrate the process for grieving families.
The exchange went as follows:
Matt Carthy: We have a remit over value for money and ensuring adequate expenditure of the public moneys allocated to our guests’ organisation. It goes beyond general checks and balances and involves a consideration of the length of time investigations take and the results that follow on from them. We cannot do that without reflecting on some of GSOC’s previous investigations.
The investigation I am a little familiar with is the one that occurred subsequent to the death of Shane O’Farrell. If I understand it correctly, there were two different investigations. What was the distinction between how they operated?
Hugh Hume (GSOC): I am not exactly sure, but my understanding is that a number of allegations were made at the start and they were being dealt with slightly differently. At that point, GSOC brought them all under one umbrella and conducted a criminal investigation in respect of 56 separate allegations that had been made. Those 56 allegations were investigated and a determination was made that there was no case of criminality. There was then a disciplinary investigation, to which my colleague, Ms Logan, has alluded. That is a process we currently have to go through where we have to reset and start looking at the case again with a view to potential disciplinary matters. That disciplinary investigation examined 13 separate allegations and a recommendation was sent to the Garda Commissioner, who I believe took some action on the matter.
Matt Carthy: Was the section 101 report on the criminal investigation?
Hugh Hume: Such an investigation ends in what is called a section 101 report, which is a report that comes to the commission following a criminal investigation.
Matt Carthy: And the disciplinary investigation is reported on under section 97.
Hugh Hume: Correct.
Matt Carthy: What instigated those investigations? Was it the complaints by the family or a direction by the Minister?
Hugh Hume: It was a combination of all of those factors. There was information from the Minister and the family had come to GSOC as well. It is quite a while back and I was not in the office at the time, but my understanding is those all came from a number of different sources and GSOC brought them together into one cohesive investigation, which included the 56 allegations.
Matt Carthy: Let me put it a different way. If the family alone had provided information, would that have been sufficient for GSOC to conduct the investigation?
Hugh Hume: An investigation had started on the basis of what the family had provided.
Matt Carthy: In terms of the criminal and disciplinary strands, who conducted the investigations?
Hugh Hume: A senior investigating officer in Longford conducted the investigations.
Matt Carthy: Was that a Garda officer or a GSOC officer?
Hugh Hume: I beg the Deputy’s pardon. It was a GSOC officer.
Matt Carthy: Was that the case for both investigations?
Hugh Hume: Yes. After they were completed—–
Matt Carthy: Was it the same individual who carried out both investigations?
Hugh Hume: It was the same team.
Matt Carthy: It was an internal GSOC team. The first report, the section 101 report, came six years after the original investigation started. Does Mr. Hume consider that to be an acceptable timeframe?
Hugh Hume: It is certainly a very long timeframe. There is no doubt about that. I was not there at the time, to understand all the nuances. While I have read the background material in anticipation of the Deputy’s question and examined the file, there were 56 separate allegations. It all had to be dealt with criminally across a broad spectrum of activity that preceded the unfortunate terrible accident, and succeeded the incident as well, as the Deputy will be perhaps aware. It was a broad nature.
Matt Carthy: In terms of going forward, does Mr. Hume consider six years for an investigation of that type to be an acceptable length of time?
Hugh Hume: I could not comment on all the nuances and the stymies or the opportunities that occurred during that time.
Emily Logan (GSOC): I want to say, in terms of being fair and giving the Deputy an answer on the standard, but separate to the individual case that the Deputy is speaking about, the answer to the question as to whether six years is acceptable is “No”. Mr. Hume is talking specifically. I am not talking about that case. I am just talking about a general standard for this commission. We would not consider that acceptable.
Matt Carthy: In terms of the disciplinary aspect of the case, that was even longer again because it was subsequent to the completion of the criminal aspect of the commission’s investigation.
Hugh Hume: It followed on in a relatively short period of time. I have not got the exact time. Within a few months, it followed on from GSOC, I believe, to the Garda Commissioner.
Matt Carthy: As Mr. Hume mentioned, GSOC recommended disciplinary action in respect of three gardaí following that investigation.
Hugh Hume: That is correct.
Matt Carthy: Is Mr. Hume aware that in respect of two of those the disciplinary procedures or penalties that were applied were subsequently withdrawn by the Garda Commissioner?
Hugh Hume: I am aware there was some sort of court action and the outworkings of that was the setting aside of those proceedings.
Matt Carthy: After all of that time in terms of the amount of work that GSOC has put in, is Mr. Hume satisfied that there was an appropriate outcome at the end of all GSOC’s efforts and the expenditure that was invested in this case?
Hugh Hume: It is not what GSOC feels about the thing. There are far more important people’s concerns in this investigation than GSOC’s concerns, in terms of the family themselves and their feeling of hurt. Clearly, we work to try to deliver the best and fairest result for everyone.
Matt Carthy: Mr. Hume is correct, in terms of the family being an important aspect. Given that they instigated essentially the investigation, why has the family not received the full copies of the reports that were published in this case?
Mr. Justice Rory MacCabe (GSOC Chair): As the Deputy will be aware, there is a subsequent inquiry going on that is in the hands of retired Judge Haughton. That is effectively a further hurdle that has appeared on this particular long road. The Deputy would have to address his query to Judge Haughton and his inquiry in that regard.
Matt Carthy: I have to say I do not buy that. GSOC carried out the investigations. GSOC concluded two reports. In respect of the section 101 report, the family have received summaries, not the full report. My understanding is that the same is the case for the section 97 report. These are reports in GSOC’s possession.
Whatever Judge Haughton is doing in relation to his scoping inquiry, he needs to be let do that but that does not prevent GSOC from providing those reports to the family. In fact, the Garda Commissioner is on the record as saying that these reports have been compiled by GSOC and that publication relates to Mr. Justice MacCabe’s organisation alone. My question is, will GSOC provide those reports to the family considering they are the instigators?
As Mr. Hume correctly said, they are the most important part of this procedure.
Following this case, I am aware of some of the details and most of the revelations about the fact that the person who killed Shane should have been imprisoned at the time, had been in breach of multiple bail conditions, and had received a custodial sentence that was never pursued and that he never served. While he was supposed to be signing on at a Garda station on a daily basis for a period of that time, he was in custody north of the Border.
It is a litany of failures. The real answers and the causation of all of those failures have never been revealed. GSOC, the organisation that one would have hoped would have been part of finding those answers, instead was subjugated to a significant delay during which time every other actor in this process refused to answer questions. The then Minister for Justice, the Department of Justice, the Garda, the DPP and the Courts Service – everybody who was responsible for failures in this case – stated for almost eight years that they could not answer questions because GSOC was carrying out an investigation.
Now GSOC is coming in here and stating that it cannot provide information because there is a scoping inquiry taking place. My question is, when the scoping inquiry is concluded what will be the excuse for refusing to provide this family with answers as to why their son was killed by a man who should have been imprisoned at the time?
Justice Rory MacCabe: All I can tell the Deputy is that Judge Haughton made 114 requests for information from GSOC. GSOC, in October last, responded to these. Our legal unit is liaising with Judge Haughton at present. I would like to be able to give the Deputy a more positive response than that.
Matt Carthy: Is there a preclusion on GSOC providing information to any other third party that has been provided to Judge Haughton? Is it the case that the scoping inquiry has said that once GSOC provides it with that information, it cannot then provide it to another person?
Justice Rory MacCabe: I cannot answer that for certain. We are respecting the work that is being carried out by Judge Haughton. That is the only thing I can say to the Deputy at this stage.
Matt Carthy: Can Justice MacCabe not assure us today that GSOC will provide those reports to the family of the late Shane O’Farrell?
Justice Rory MacCabe: I cannot give the Deputy that assurance as of now.
PAC Cathoirleach, Brian Stanley: Mr. Justice MacCabe may be on the spot a bit in this regard. Perhaps he would come back to the committee with a piece of correspondence around whether that can or cannot be, and if it cannot be, why it cannot be at this stage.
Justice Rory MacCabe: Certainly.