Widow of sergeant left "traumatised" by GSOC investigation

Sad: Sgt Michael Galvin took his own life at Ballyshannon Garda Station last Thursday.
Sad: Sgt Michael Galvin took his own life at Ballyshannon Garda Station last Thursday.

The widow of a garda sergeant who took his own life not knowing he had been cleared by a Garda Ombudsman investigation has been left "traumatised".

Sgt Michael Galvin took his own life at Ballyshannon Garda Station last Thursday.

A GSOC investigation concluded days earlier had cleared him of any misconduct; but he had not yet been told.

Friends say he had expressed fears about losing his job and his home if he was charged with perverting the course of justice.

Following his death, colleagues found a letter in a sealed envelope which was addressed to his wife Collette.

It is understood that he explained that he could not take the pressure of the GSOC investigation which had left him feeling like a criminal, the Irish Independent reports.

Sources close to the family have said that Collette Galvin is "beside herself" with grief and can not understand why her husband had not been informed by GSOC that he had been cleared of any wrongdoing.

The GSCO inquiry had related to a fatal road accident in Ballyshannon on January 1 this year. But GSOC found Sgt Galvin had acted appropriately.

In a statement yesterday, GSOC confirmed he had been cleared and a report noting this was to be sent to the DPP.

"Sergeant Galvin is not, nor was he ever, the subject of a complaint to GSOC.

"The sergeant was interviewed in the context of a fatal incident on 1 January 2015, which was referred by the Garda Síochána to GSOC for investigation, because the law provides for GSOC to investigate, where there has been garda contact with a person prior to death or serious harm occurring.

"This is a routine occurrence and it should not be automatically assumed that there is garda misconduct in such cases that are referred to GSOC. Sergeant Galvin was interviewed about the incident on the afternoon of 20th May.

"GSOC’s investigation concluded the following week and found no evidence of a criminal offence or a breach of discipline by any garda member.  It is unusual that GSOC would share its findings at this point in the process, but given these exceptional circumstances we believe that it is appropriate."

It said it would ask an outside agency to investigate the affair.

However Sgt Galvin's angry colleagues demanded a High Court judge probe how GSOC conducts investigations.

"It has been an appalling number of days for Collette Galvin and her three children," said John Redmond, Secretary General of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors.

Sgt Galvin, he said, had an impeccable record of service and loyalty to the force, and often went beyond the call of duty.

But he had become deeply distressed in recent weeks, increasing since May 20 when he was interviewed under caution.

"AGSI members are deeply hurt and traumatised," he said.

"It has now been publicly reported that Sgt Galvin, who has given impeccable service to the force, was not guilty of any wrongdoing following a GSOC investigation into an incident in Donegal earlier this year, but this was not communicated to him, and it clearly should have been.

"It is unfair for GSOC to attempt to detract attention away from their glaring communications failures and point in the direction of the DPP.

"That the Commission would come to a conclusion that there was 'no evidence of criminal behaviour or a breach of discipline' and not inform the person involved or the Garda organisation is beyond belief."

Mr Redmond said the Galvin family were devastated by the death and annoyed by the GSOC investigation.

The organisation plans to meet Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald amid growing concerns at how GSOC informs gardaí about the conclusion of cases.

"This Association feels that the presumption of innocence for an accused person is absent when GSOC is investigating men and women in An Garda Síochána," said Mr Redmond.

"The approach they take when they are dealing with the gardaí lacks compassion, understanding and the degree of fairness required in such circumstances, does not seem to exist."