Is this the start of the coup? It seems that elements within our police force have colluded with a political party to force the resignation of a government minister.
Trevor Sargent has resigned after a letter he wrote in June 2008 to a policeman became public.
The letter concerned a man who complained to a parent about vandalism, and was headbutted and hospitalised for his trouble.
Now, if I had been headbutted by the scumbag father of a scumbag vandal, I might well find myself engaging in threatening and abusive behaviour too, and if I was charged by the local cops, as a result of trying to prevent vandalism in my neighbourhood, I think I’d be outraged.
I’d expect my elected representatives to be just as outraged, and that’s exactly how Sargent felt about it.
Sargent wrote to a policeman involved, complaining that this man had been charged when all he was trying to do was prevent vandalism in his area, but the police went ahead with the prosecution anyway and the man received a fine.
That was two years ago.
Recently, as everyone knows now, the Green Party insisted on Willie O’Dea’s removal from office because he swore a false statement to the High Court.
The minister for justice, Dermot Ahern, was particularly vocal in defending O’Dea’s abuse of the court.
Now, within a few days, the letter from Sargent to the police has been passed to a newspaper and Sargent has resigned in an apparent act of political revenge by Fianna Fáil.
It isn’t immediately apparent that what Sargent did was illegal.
According to the Prosecution of Offences Act, 1974, it is legal for a person to communicate with a Garda as a social worker. Since the Act does not require such a person to be formally employed as a social worker, it could reasonably be argued that Trevor Sargent was acting as a social worker and was therefore within his rights in writing to the police.
In my opinion, the Green Party panicked and allowed Sargent to resign prematurely, but now that he’s gone, here are a few questions.
- Did a Garda copy the lettter from the police file ?
- When was the letter copied – was it immediately on receipt, or was it in the last week?
- Who was the copy given to — was it a reporter or somebody else?
- Who informed the newspaper about the existence of the letter?
- Who passed the letter to the reporter was it a Garda or somebody else?
While its by no means obvious that Trevor Sargent did anything illegal in writing to the policeman, I think it’s certainly a crime to copy a confidential police file and pass the details to a third party.
Will some policeman be charged with a crime?
Will some Fianna Fáil politician be charged with a crime?
Will the Minister for Justice be asked in the Dáil to explain how a Garda file was passed to the newspapers only days after he had personally defended the actions of Willie O’Dea in misleading the courts?
Given the contempt for the High Court displayed recently by the minister for justice, the defence minister and the prime minister, this is a very dangerous development for our fragile democracy.
The Prosecution of Offences Act 1974, Section 6, states as follows:-
6.—(1) ( a ) Subject to the provisions of this section it shall not be lawful to communicate with the Attorney General or an officer of the Attorney General, the Director or an officer of the Director the Acting Director, a member of the Garda Síochána or a solicitor who acts on behalf of the Attorney General in his official capacity for the Director in his official capacity, for the purpose of influencing making of a decision to withdraw or not to initiate criminal proceedings or any particular charge in criminal proceedings.
( b ) If a person referred to in paragraph (a) of this subsection becomes of opinion that a communication is in breach of that paragraph, it shall be the duty of the person not to entertain the communication further.
(2) ( a ) This section does not apply to—
(i) communications made by a person who is a defendant or a complainant in criminal proceedings or believes that he is likely to be a defendant in criminal proceedings, or
(ii) communications made by a person involved in the matter either personally or as legal or medical adviser to a person involved in the matter or as a social worker or a member of the family of a person involved in the matter.
( b ) In this subsection “member of the family” means wife, husband, father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, stepfather, stepmother, son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, stepson, stepdaughter, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, a person who is the subject of, or in whose favour there is made, an adoption order under the Adoption, Act 1952 and 1964.