The sixth report of the Morris Tribunal was published today.
If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you might know something about the disgraceful behaviour of the Gardai in Donegal that led to the setting up of the tribunal. They framed, suspects, beat them up in custody, manufactured evidence, lied to their superiors and ultimately tried to lie their way out of the tribunal.
But Mr Justice Fred Morris is a crafty old bird and he saw through the lies. I’ll just give you a flavour of what he said in his report and you can read the whole lot on the tribunal web site if you want to. Have a look at these extracts in Morris’s own words:
- Once again, the Tribunal was faced with Garda who were determined to hide the truth of what happened. They made statements to their superiors which were in many instances minimalist in their detail and failed to give a fully truthful account; in a number of instances the statements were a complete fabrication.
- It was disturbing to find a deep seated reluctance to concede that a colleague had acted incorrectly or wrongfully or that the complaints made by the detainees were true the wall of silence was maintained.
- Unfortunately, this approach extended to and was encouraged by senior officers in this investigation and in the overall approach adopted by An Garda Síochána to external complaints.
- The deficiencies observed by the Tribunal in the manner in which An Garda Síochána acted in these matters, by their nature, are not peculiar to Donegal. Issues of accountability, tunnel vision, the proper investigation of offences, the treatment of persons in custody, and responsible leadership of criminal investigations, are all issues related to general policing.
- The Tribunal has already referred to the wall of silence that has been experienced in dealing with policemen at home and abroad when they are faced with allegations of misconduct. This may be viewed with the other phenomenon of Garda speak which the Tribunal has encountered over the last number of years, and an understanding by Garda that they are expected only to give the minimum amount of detail in respect of any controversy in which the Garda are involved.
- Gardaí should give a full and truthful account in every statement which they make in all cases whether civil or criminal. It is regrettable that such a basic proposition in relation to telling the truth should have to be spelt out in this way.
- False evidence was manipulated by members of An Garda Síochána in an effort to implicate suspects whom the Gardaí believed were responsible for the Late Richard Barron’s death. Proper methods of investigation were not employed. Statements were not properly taken from witnesses.
- Lies and negligence led to the arrest of innocent people and the disruption of their lives, at a terrible human and social cost for some of them.
- The most obvious forensic manifestation of this disaster was the procurement from Mr. Frank McBrearty Junior of a false confession, which coincided to a large extent with the incorrect theory upon which the investigation had proceeded. The statement itself was the product of a complete and systematic failure of policing at a number of levels, from the most senior officers leading the inquiry, to those conducting the interviews of certain witnesses and suspects, and a failure to analyse statements and evidence obtained.
- In this jurisdiction, unfortunately, this has not been a unique occurrence. The Tribunal is now aware of the case of the Late Dean Lyons, in which a false confession was also obtained by members of An Garda Síochána in the course of a murder investigation. Thus, in two very serious recent inquiries, two detainees have yielded false confessions in respect of crimes of which they were innocent.
This is only a small sample of the things Mr Justice Morris has to say about our police force. He accuses them of dishonesty, incompetence, and institutionalised abuse of suspects throughout Ireland. Despite what the Justice Minister, Brian Lenihan suggested today, it was not the work of a small number of policemen in Donegal. This problem is nationwide, and anyone who takes the trouble to read Morris’s reports will be able to see that plainly.
At a time when we need it more than ever, our police force is in deep trouble because of a lack of professional management, professional standards and professional skills. It’s a cloistered, monastic cabal that regards the population at large as the enemy. It’s quite willing to harass the average citizen for a minor infringement while at the same time being more than happy to avoid confrontation with the serious criminals who threaten the very existence of civil society.
If our police force is such deep trouble, then we, the citizens are in very serious danger, and nobody in government seems to have the imagination to see that and do something about it. Fred Morris has done a tremendous job protecting our democracy, and yet Brian Lenihan cynically tried to bury the report by releasing it on the same day a new Taoiseach takes office. This is a disgrace, but it’s revealing. This shows you a political mindset that can’t see the danger in having a corrupt and demoralised police force.
We are in big trouble.