A garda is to face a criminal prosecution over his driving in relation to an incident in which three men were killed in a collision on the N7 in Dublin two years ago while fleeing gardaí.
A sitting of Dublin District Coroner’s Court heard that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has directed that a garda involved in the pursuit of the three men, who were members of a Tallaght-based criminal gang that specialised in burglaries, is to be charged with a driving offence.
The three men– Dean Maguire (29), Karl Freeman (26) and Graham Taylor (31) – were killed instantly when their BMW vehicle burst into flames following a head-on crash with a truck between Citywest and Baldonnel on July 7th, 2021, while they were driving on the wrong side of the road.
The coroner, Clare Keane, was informed that the DPP had taken the decision to initiate the prosecution based on a file submitted by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) which investigated the circumstances of the fatal crash.
A designated officer with Gsoc, Seán Campbell, applied for an adjournment of the inquest into the deaths of the three men based on the new development in the case.
Mr Campbell said the garda facing prosecution was still not aware of the precise offence with which he would be charged, and consequently he did not wish to say anything further on the matter.
The Gsoc official said he had only become aware of the DPP’s decision on Tuesday evening.
Mr Campbell said he was not in a position to provide any more details about the prosecution until he had received documents from the DPP relating to the summons to be served on the garda.
However, solicitor for Mr Taylor’s family, James MacGuill, complained that minimal information about the pending prosecution was being provided to the hearing.
“It is scandalous treatment by Gsoc of bereaved families who already have been waiting two years for answers,” Mr MacGuill said.
He claimed Gsoc should be required to provide a legal justification as to why the men’s relatives should have another two weeks of “legal uncertainty” imposed on them.
Mr MacGuill also called on Dr Keane to use her authority to get Mr Campbell to provide such information.
Solicitor for Mr Maguire’s family, Michael Finucane, claimed there would be no prejudice to the garda by just informing the men's relatives of the charge which the garda would be facing.
Mr Finucane said he could see no basis why they could not be given such information after hearing from Mr Campbell that the garda’s solicitor had been told “in a roundabout way” about the pending prosecution. Asked to clarify what that meant, Mr Campbell replied that the offence related to “his driving on the night”.
Mr MacGuill said he would be “astonished” if the garda or his solicitor had not asked what exact charge he would be facing.
He claimed there was nothing under legislation to prevent the coroner and his clients from being told the nature of the offence as Mr Campbell was only stating a preference not to release such information.
Mr MacGuill said it was likely that the garda would face a charge of either reckless endangerment or dangerous driving causing death.
“What possible reason is there not to be told today,” he remarked.
However, Mr Campbell said he was aware of the specific charge but did not wish to answer further questions about it at this stage.
The Gsoc official said he would be happy to answer any questions once the summons had been served on the garda, adding he was aware of the offence.
Following repeated questions by legal representatives of the families of the deceased, Mr Campbell said he had informed the garda’s solicitor about the prosecution.
He explained that the solicitor would have seen all of Gsoc's information on the case and would have known “what was coming”.
Mr Campbell said he believed it was only fair that the garda should be formally notified first about the offence and would not release such information in advance of that.
In response, Mr Finucane claimed no justifiable reasons had been provided by the Gsoc official for not revealing the specific offence.
“It’s not good enough. That is really causing great difficulties for all the families,” he added.
Asked by the coroner when he would be in a position to specify the nature of the charge, Mr Campbell said Gsoc’s file had been with the DPP since last December, and he expected he would be able to outline the exact offence to the coroner and the men’s families in about two weeks.
Mr Freeman’s father, Jason Freeman, addressed the court to express concern that the families would read about the charge in the newspapers unless the coroner compelled Mr Campbell to disclose the offence.
Addressing a large group of the deceased’s relatives who attended the hearing, Dr Keane acknowledged the issue was “very upsetting” for them.
Following a brief adjournment, the coroner said she would grant Gsoc’s application for an adjournment in the case on the basis criminal proceedings are being considered.
Dr Keane set a further hearing in the case for May 23rd.