A TOTAL of 21 Gardai in Cork were fined a combined figure of €2,110 for breaching Garda discipline procedures last year, it has been revealed.
One member of the force was fined €400 for criminal conduct, while another Garda was fined €500 for discreditable conduct.
The figures, obtained by the Evening Echo under the Freedom of Information Act, state that there were 27 investigations into alleged breaches by Gardaí in Cork during 2016.
Of these, 21 were upheld – 14 in the Cork City division and seven in the Cork West division. No allegations of breaches were concluded in Cork North last year.
Two Gardaí found to have breached discipline were given formal advice, two were formally reprimanded, and a further 17 were docked monetary amounts from their wages.
Most of these fines were for amounts of €100 or less. Four members were fined €50 for neglect of duty while a further four were fined €60 for the same offence. Two were fined €60 for discreditable conduct and one was docked €100 for neglect of duty.
In terms of the more serious breaches, two Gardaí were fined €150 – one for discreditable conduct and one for falsehood or prevarication – and one member was docked €200 for neglect of duty.
The two highest amounts were €400 and €500 – two separate fines handed down to Gardaí for criminal conduct and discreditable conduct respectively.
Commenting on the figures, Cork-based Garda Michael Corcoran from the Garda Representative Association said the majority of the breaches would, however, have been for very informal infractions.
“Included in those figures would be a breach of discipline called a regulation 10 which is a very informal breach. Like, for example, if somebody came in and had their tie askew, they could be disciplined for that and it would actually count as a breach and it goes against your record,” he explained.
“It is also something that there are no appeals against. You could have genuinely had some reason for not wearing your tie, or you could have lost something or something could have fallen off your uniform, and that's not taken into account. There is no appeal against a regulation 10 unfortunately.”
Nationwide, between 150 and 200 Gardai are found to be in breach of internal discipline each and every year. Considering there are more than 12,500 Gardai across the country, Mr Corcoran said these figures represent only a tiny fraction of the force – less than 1.5%.
“A lot of the breaches would be on the lower level. There are very few that are on the higher level such as the regulation 24 which requires a formal inquiry.”
Under the Garda Siochana (Discipline) Regulations 2007/2011, members of the force found to be in breach can be handed down penalties such as dismissal, a requirement to retire or resign, a reduction in rank, a reduction in pay, a warning, a caution, and advice.
Garda Corcoran explained, however, that the burden of proof for all of the disciplinary regulations is the same as that which applies in a civil case in the court system.
While in a criminal case the burden of proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt", in a civil case is is "on the balance of probabilities. In other words, one party's case just needs to be more probable than the other.
Garda Corcoran said this can often be "a highly subjective level" considering the decision on guilt or innocence lies with a single officer or Superintendent.
"Personalities can often come into the picture in those cases. For instance, a member might have been convicted of a breach previously and that can often colour the Superintendent's view and, thereby, his/her decision."
Garda Corcoran went on to explain that while a regulation 10 breach goes on the offending Garda's record, no fine is associated with it.
“The lower end fines would be for a regulation 14. You can get fined up to two weeks' wages on each charge for that one but generally speaking it's a lot lower than that,” he said.
“The €50 charges would be in relation to a regulation 14. It would be if a member of the force failed to do something, failed to submit a file in time or something like that. They're relatively innocuous... then you have the more serious breaches where you could actually lose your job or be fined a substantial amount – up to four weeks wages per charge.”
Garda Corcoran said while there is no appeal for a regulation 10 infraction, more serious breaches can be appealed.
“From a regulation 14 and up, you can appeal those ones. So some of the figures that are there at the moment, some of them will probably be overturned on appeal, because a lot of them do get overturned,” he said.
“So also included in those figures would be ones that were upheld but could have been later overturned by the courts. So those figures are not always entirely accurate. They give the picture of internal records, and internal records are never changed, even if someone goes to the courts to overturn a decision, which they do.”