Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Minister fully aware of destruction of files in case against the state

3 April, 2009 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD


Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called for a full, independent, public investigation into the circumstances surrounding the destruction of up to twenty years of files by the Garda Complaints Board despite the fact that some of the files were part of a current high court case in which the State is the defendant.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh has said that the Minister for Justice has admitted in response to parliamentary questions that he and the Attorney General were aware of the destruction of files which formed part of a case in which they are both defendants.

He said, “Other than cover-up, there is no logical justification for the destruction of these files that I can see.

“In relation to the specific case of James Sheehan, who on the face of it was the victim of an attempted framing by Gardaí, according to the state the supposed evidence was also already destroyed before his case could be heard. Now the investigation files, which presumably included transcripts of interviews with the Gardaí involved etc. have again been conveniently and coincidently destroyed by the Garda Complaints Board after consultation with the Minister for Justice and the Attorney General who are both defendants in the case. This has frustrated Mr Sheehan's legal case and quest for justice.

“At the time the files were destroyed this case was ongoing and all the relevant arms of the state were aware of it. This has all the hallmarks of a high level cover-up and a full, independent and public investigation should be conducted into the matter.

“In response to parliamentary questions which I tabled to the Minister he has admitted that he and the Attorney General, who are both defendants in the James Sheehan case, were both consulted on the destruction of the files. He has also admitted that there ‘may well’ be more civil actions against the state by people whose files may have been destroyed.

“I am concerned that the implications of the Garda Complaints Board decision to destroy 20 years worth of files has wider implications. It may undermine the ability of the new Garda Ombudsman Commission to investigate cases within its retrospective powers or to investigate cases of prolonged and ongoing harassment where complaints were made to the Garda Complaints Board in the past. Concerns were raised in relation to the transfer of files when the legislation establishing Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission was being debated.

“It could also damage any Garda who was wrongly accused of mis-conduct in the past and wants to retain his or her good name in any current of future legal case.

“Sinn Féin was never supportive of the Garda Complaints Board as it had no independence and simply amounted to Gardaí investigating complaints against themselves. And, as Irish Republicans we are well aware of levels of corruption within both the Gardaí and the Garda Complaints Board. However, even we are astonished at the audacity of the board in destroying possibly twenty year’s worth of files including files which are part of ongoing cases.

“As a consequence of the outrageous decision for many the truth may never be revealed and justice may never be realised. Whoever was responsible for this decision must be held to account.” ENDS

QUESTION NOS: 135 to 141

DÁIL QUESTIONS addressed to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. Ahern) by Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh for WRITTEN on Thursday, 2nd April, 2009.

* 135. To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that all files relating to complaints deemed finalised by the Garda Complaints Board up to and including 2005 have been destroyed.

- Aengus Ó Snodaigh

* 136. To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the considerations that preceded the decision by the Garda Complaints Board to destroy all files in relation to complaints deemed finalised by the board up to and including 2005; and the basis for the decision.

- Aengus Ó Snodaigh

* 137. To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the statutes of limitations were taken into consideration by the Garda Complaints Board when it decided to destroy in 2008 all files in relation to complaints deemed finalised by the board up to and including 2005.

- Aengus Ó Snodaigh

* 138. To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether in the context of the decision by the Garda Complaints Board to destroy all files in relation to complaints deemed finalised by the board up to and including 2005, that at a minimum any files relating to cases and incidents that are currently sub judice should have been retained.

- Aengus Ó Snodaigh

* 139. To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of files destroyed, as a result of the decision by the Garda Complaints Board to destroy all files in relation to complaints deemed finalised by the board up to and including 2005, that relate to ongoing legal cases to which the State is a party.

- Aengus Ó Snodaigh

* 140. To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Attorney General advised the Garda Complaints Board to destroy all files in relation to complaints deemed finalised by the board up to and including 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Aengus Ó Snodaigh

* 141. To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that in August 2008 the Garda Complaints Board destroyed the files in relation to two complaints made by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry in view of the fact that High Court proceedings had commenced in relation to the subject matter of the complaints; and if this matter warrants full and public investigation in the interests of justice, transparency and public confidence.

- Aengus Ó Snodaigh

REPLY. I am aware that all files relating to complaints deemed finalised by the Garda Síochána Complaints Board up to and including 2005 have been destroyed.

The Garda Síochána Complaints Board consulted with my Department, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and the Office of the Attorney General before taking its decision to destroy these files. The Garda Síochána Complaints Board sought the advice of the Attorney General as to the potential options in relation to the Board's files when the Board would cease to exist. The Attorney General also consulted with my Department before giving its advices to the Board.

I am informed by the Board that no files for the period in question, where the Garda Síochána Complaints Board were aware of or party to legal proceedings were destroyed. It may well be that civil actions are being taken against the State by persons who previously made complaints to the Board where the Board is not a party to such proceedings.

The Garda Síochána Complaints Board is an independent body and discharges its statutory responsibilities in accordance with the Garda Síochána (Complaints) Act 1986. It is the Board's policy not to comment on individual cases. I note that the person referred to by the Deputy is currently undertaking civil proceedings against the State. In the circumstances, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.

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