Internal investigation into Garda decision to bar press from court hearing held

Internal investigation into Garda decision to bar press from court hearing held

An Garda Síochána has conducted an internal review of the actions taken by members to prevent the public and press from entering the October 13th sitting of Dungarvan District Court and “lessons have been learnt”, a spokesman for the force told The Irish Times.

However, Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan has called for clarification on whether the decision to bar people from a hearing examining the legitimacy of a Garda statement, was “motivated by anything other than a genuine mistake”.

For almost four months, An Garda Síochána had insisted its members had been acting on the direction of Judge Brian O’Shea, which the Courts Service has denied since the day of the hearing.

Senior Garda management reversed this position in recent days and accepted that duty gardaí had “inadvertently” excluded others from the chamber.

It is understood that no disciplinary action has been taken against the gardaí involved.

When contacted on Monday the Garda Press Office said: “This matter has been reviewed internally and lessons have been learnt. A letter of apology has issued from An Garda Siochana to Judge O’Shea.”

That apology from Deputy Garda Commissioner Anne Marie McMahon – issued last week – said the barring at the courthouse was “due to an error on the part of members of An Garda Síochána on duty”.

The barring concerned a hearing where a Mr Kieran Hartley was charged with allegedly using threatening language against the family member of a local garda during a row near his mid-county Waterford home near Kilmacthomas.

Mr Hartley brought a challenge against the legitimacy of a Garda statement for the case, which Judge O’Shea ruled could stand as presented after a three-hour-long hearing. The case against Mr Hartley was struck out by the judge in December.

‘Need to explain’

Reacting on Monday, Mr Hartley, who in the past has stood for election for Fianna Fáil, said gardaí need to explain what happened.

“Regretfully, (the apology) fails to address the circumstances surrounding the inadvertence’ and does not identify the member of An Garda Síochána who ordered the exclusion of members of the public and press from the courthouse.

“In order to ensure continued

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