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Garda suffering from PTSD wins legal action against dismissal

Court stock

Court stock

Tim Healy

A detective garda who suffers from post traumatic stress arising out of threats against him and his family by criminals has won his High Court action preventing his dismissal from An Garda Siochana.

The action was brought by Detective Garda Aidan Bracken who was informed earlier this year that he was being summarily dismissed over his admission before a Circuit Criminal Court of a charge of making a false report.

He brought High Court proceedings challenging that decision and on Friday Mr Justice Charles Meenan quashed the decision to dismiss.

The judge said the Garda Commissioner has a power, under the Garda Disciplinary Regulations, to summarily dismiss a member.

The use of that power, the judge said, should only be "done sparingly" and "only in circumstances where the facts are entirely clear to the point that the holding of an inquiry would be pointless."

He was satisfied that this was not the case here and the garda was entitled to an order quashing the decision to dismiss him.

John Kennedy SC, with Rory Kennedy Bl instructed by solicitor Eoin Powderly argued that the Commissioner's decision was unlawful.

The proceedings were brought after the Commissioner informed the detective that, subject to the consent of the policing authority, it was proposed to summarily dismiss him because he was unfit for retention in the force.

The detective, a 20-year veteran, has not worked for five years due to psychiatric injuries sustained while on duty.

The court heard that Detective Bracken, stationed in Carbury Co Kildare, was charged with making a false report. In 2019 he pleaded guilty to the criminal offence before Wicklow Circuit Court.

He accepted he made a false report concerning threats he claimed were made against himself, his family and his colleagues.

At the time the Detective, who had been informed by his superiors that his life was at risk, had been suffering from serious mental health issues, including paranoia, stress and PTSD due to other serious threats he had received from violent criminal gang members.

He claimed that the Circuit Court judge hearing that case determined that given the extenuating circumstances no punishment was warranted and dismissed the charges under the Probation Act.

Arising from that the Commissioner, citing Regulation 39 of the 2007 Garda Regulations informed the detective that he was to be dismissed from the force.

However, the Detective claimed that no conviction was recorded against him by the Circuit Court.

Regulation 39, was something that can be used when the Commissioner was absolutely certain that a member had engaged in serious breach of discipline, it was argued.

The Commissioner could not impose such a draconian measure against Detective Bracken where there was, at the very least, a doubt over the Circuit Court's ruling, it was claimed.

Opposing the application, lawyers for the Commissioner argued the detective's action was premature and had been taken before the process under the relevant Garda regulation had been completed.

It was also argued that the detective had pleaded guilty to a criminal charge before the Circuit Court, and was not entitled to any order quashing the decision that he should be dismissed.

Mr Justice Meenan said that it appeared that the detective did not receive a conviction from the Circuit Court.

If the Commissioner was to rely on the Circuit Court's order and application should have been made to clarify the terms of that order, he held.

This, the judge said, was not done.

He did not accept that the legal proceedings were premature. He noted that the Commissioner had repeatedly ignored correspondence about the process from the Garda's lawyers.

That, he added, could only lead to the conclusion that the process had been complete.

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