By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said that its investigation into claims around a Garda Ombudsman staff member would aim to be completed as quickly as possible.
Reports have emerged that an officer at the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) attended a party with Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch.
The gathering was reportedly held last Monday, the day Mr Hutch was acquitted of the 2016 Regency hotel murder of David Byrne, in what became of the first deadly attacks of the Hutch-Kinahan gangland feud.
Mr Hutch walked out the front door of the Criminal Courts of Justice after the 52-day murder trial at the non-jury Special Criminal Court.
Minister for Justice Simon Harris said on Monday he had received the report he requested from the GSOC chairperson regarding the issue and referred it to Gardai “to establish if any concerns of a criminal nature arise”.
Mr Harris said he agreed with the Justice Minister that the allegations were of a “serious concern”, but could not yet give a timeline on how long the investigation would take as the issue had only just been referred.
“We are examining this matter in terms of examining it for the potential of criminality that may have occurred,” he told the second public meeting of the Policing Authority on Tuesday.
“So that’s our investigation, that’s our powers at this moment. And obviously then if offences are disclosed, we’ll report those to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and in time we’ll also report to the Minister of Justice as well.
“So quite literally, work started yesterday. The National Bureau of Criminal Investigation have undertaken this work, so experienced competent detectives, and we’ll just want to move this on as quickly as possible.”
He added that there was no indication of a timescale at this point, as it only came to their remit 24 hours ago.
He said: “We have to determine actually in the first place, is there a potential criminality for us to investigate. So we are conducting inquiries with GSOC in this moment in time and then we’ll proceed then as this matter may open up or indeed close down as well.”
He said of Mr Hutch’s acquittal in the State-prosecuted case, that their focus remained on making communities safer by making Ireland “a hard place for organised crime to operate”.
He added: “It’s just not about this guy or that guy, it’s actually dealing with the overall threat of organised crime. We do that through the prevention of crime but also bringing perpetrators to justice.”
He said that when cases are pursued against people, “matters have to be proven beyond all reasonable doubt”.
“One can never be certain of what the outcome might be. In effect, as we’re living in a country, which is a liberal democracy where the rule of law is important, we have to accept as an organisation that we have we will have convictions, but obviously we’ll also have acquittals, that is part of the process,” Mr Harris said.
The Commissioner also told the Policing Authority that there was a meeting with the Women of Honour group on Monday last week, representing women who have served in the Defence Forces who have raised concerns about their treatment.
He said: “We understand from what we’re told that there are complainants. We would encourage them to come forward.
“We do have expert experienced detectives to deal with such crimes.
If you have complaints, come forward to An Garda Siochana, we have an operation in place but in the meantime as well. We want to bolster confidence in the work that we’re doing and the work that we intend to do overall.”