Mayo: Attempt To Smear Gardai, Ombudsman Finds That ‘Shell-To-Sea Evidence Tape’ Was Altered

29 Jul

The Garda Ombudsman Commission has found that parts of a recording of the arrest of two women at an anti-Corrib gas pipleine protest in Co Mayo were deleted and overwritten.


Corrib - Gardaí will not face criminal charges

Corrib – Gardaí will not face criminal charges

The Garda Ombudsman Commission has found that parts of a recording of the arrest of two women, about whom Gardaí were alleged to have made sexually threatening remarks, were deleted and overwritten.

The women were arrested during an anti-Corrib gas pipleine protest in Co Mayo earlier this year.

The Shell to Sea group has said it does not accept that the recording was tampered with.

It has emerged that five Gardaí who were investigated after the release of the tape will not face criminal charges, but a disciplinary investigation involving two of them will continue.

The recording was made following the arrest of two women at a Shell to Sea demonstration on 31 March this year.

This afternoon the Garda Ombudsman Commission published its interim report into the incident.

The comments were recorded on a pocket camcorder seized from one of the women when they were arrested.

A garda put it in his pocket and it was unknowingly left in record mode – and this recorded a conversation between the gardaí in their vehicle.

The gardaí were heard joking about raping the women if they did not give their names and addresses. They also commented that one of the women – a US citizen – would be deported if she did not co-operate.

The report says a transcript of the recording ‘supports these allegations.’

However, the investigation says it established that at no stage were the two women personally threatened about rape or deportation by the gardaí, because ‘they did not hear the conversation at the time’.

The report says that it was suggested that another garda may have overheard one of the women using the word rape ‘prior to the word being used by any garda member’.

A detective garda told the inquiry that one of the women shouted that the gardaí could rape them as they were being arrested.

The Ombudsman inquiry said it could not corroborate this statement from the recording because high winds distorted the sound.

Files deleted

The interim report also found that while footage of the original incident was recovered, parts of the recording were deleted and overwritten.

It said that a ‘sequence of deletions from the device had taken place’ before it was handed to gardaí.

Gardaí said they were unable to take possession of the device until 14 April and that it was sent to the Forensic Science Service in Northern ireland for analysis.

The FSNI said six files had been deleted from the device between 13 April and 14 April, with other files being created and overwritten during the same period.

‘These files were not capable of being retrieved in a viewable format because of the damage caused to the files by the overwriting process.’

Shell to Sea says it does not accept that the recording was tampered with.

Spokesperson Caoimhe Kerins said other academic files were removed from the disc before it was handed to the Garda Ombudsman, but the entire file for that day was made available.

A statement by Shell to Sea said any suggestion by a detective garda that he heard a protestor use the word ‘rape’ is untrue and should be seen as a attempt to undermine the credibility of the women.

The statement added it was also untrue that the second woman had failed to co-operate with the investigation.

‘She has in fact invested significant time and energy into preparing a detailed complaint. The deadline for submission of this complaint is September 2011,’ it said.

All five gardaí in the car when the comments were made were interviewed by Garda Ombudsman.

The interim report says investigators established within two days that three of them ‘took no active part in the contentious part of the conversation, did not engage with the inappropriate comments or make any inappropriate comments themselves.’

The Ombudsman has now decided that while the other two – a garda and a sergeant – remain the subject of a disciplinary inquiry, none of the five will face criminal charges.

The Ombudsman said the level of co-operation it received during its investigation was unsatisfactory – in particular from individuals associated through academic links with the two women.

The report states that one of the two women failed to co-operate with the investigation.

On Friday 8 April this year, the Garda Commissioner apologised for the comments.

Martin Callinan said he was sorry for the offence caused to the ‘community we serve’ and for the hurt and pain felt in particular by victims of sex crime.

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