GSOC was 'mistaken' in beginning criminal investigation into actions of gardaí, inquiry finds

An inquiry was established following the death of Sergeant Michael Galvin last year

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An inquiry has found that Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) was 'mistaken' in its decision to instigate a criminal investigation into the actions of gardaí following the death of a woman in a road traffic accident.

Sheena Stewart was killed in an accident in Co Donegal on New Year's morning in 2015.

The inquiry says there was 'some garda interaction' with Ms Stewart before the accident.

GSOC commenced, conducted and 'to a very large extent' completed a criminal investigation into the conduct of members of An Garda Síochana in the period immediately prior to Ms Stewart's death. 

An inquiry, led by Mr Justice Frank Clarke, was established by the Justice Minister following the death of Sergeant Michael Galvin.

The father of three had been investigated by GSOC and, along with a number of other gardaí, had been cleared of any wrong-doing. 

However, he was reportedly unaware of that at the time of his death. It is believed he took his own life.

In an extract from the report released today, the inquiry concludes that the decision to instigate a criminal investigation 'was mistaken'.

The inquiry team says: "The Inquiry has also found that the decision was taken bona fide and, in light of the lack of clarity which is to be found in the legislation itself, the Inquiry has come to the view that it must also conclude that the decisions respectively to recommend and designate the investigation as a criminal investigation, while mistaken, would not justify any action being taken against the individuals concerned.

"This should not be taken to mean that the Inquiry feels that no criminal investigation at all could properly have been instigated when more information became available," the report adds.

The Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald says a number of legal issues remain ahead of the publication of the full report, but that it was 'possible in the public interest' to publish the first part. 

The report has also been forwarded to GSOC.

Minister Fitzgerald said:  “Sergeant Galvin’s death was a tragedy for his wife and family, for his Garda colleagues and for his community. This week I again met Mrs Galvin, along with her family and solicitor. I know that no words of mine can heal the hurt that so many feel at his loss.”

You can read the first part of the report here.

In a response, GSOC says the report will be given the "careful consideration it deserves [...] and the Commission will decide on any actions that should be implemented.

"The tragic events which have given rise to this Inquiry have directly affected two families, the Stewarts and the Galvins, who have had to deal with the grief of the loss of a loved one. We express once again our sympathies to both families. We are very aware of respecting their grief and their right to privacy," the Commission adds.