Fresh inquiry for Limerick detective

Anne Sheridan at the

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan at the

Brian Culbert, formerly of Roxboro Road garda station
A LIMERICK based detective who won his case at the High Court to have his dismissal from the force quashed is expected to face further allegations from a confidential garda informant against him in another upcoming case.

A LIMERICK based detective who won his case at the High Court to have his dismissal from the force quashed is expected to face further allegations from a confidential garda informant against him in another upcoming case.

Detective Garda Brian Culbert was dismissed from the force on October 25, 2013, under the Garda Commissioner’s orders, as a result of five breaches of discipline which he admitted, including disobedience of orders, two counts of falsehood, improper practice and abuse of authority, after a board of inquiry was established on May 20, 2013.

The breaches related to his handling of a confidential informant regarding serious crime in Limerick, and he was ordered by his superiors to stop but refused to do so, in what was said to be a highly complex situation.

That dismissal has now been quashed and his case will now be reheard by a new board of inquiry, but a further civil case is being taken at the High Court by one of the informants who worked with Det Culbert against him, as well as the Commissioner of An Garda Siochana and four others.

Det Culbert, represented by his solicitor Dan O’Gorman, was visibly delighted with the ruling in court room four of the Four Courts, and was congratulated outside the court by a number of other Limerick gardai who were there to support him. He does not wish to make any comment on the case at this time.

During judicial review proceedings, it was heard that an internal garda investigation was launched in December 2011 after complaints “of a serious nature” were made against the detective, who was attached to Roxboro Road station at the time.

However, it was argued by his defence that he was “controlled and manipulated by his source rather than the converse”. Exact details of those allegations were not disclosed.

Following the initial investigation, a board of inquiry was established and in September 2013 it formally recommended the dismissal of Det Culbert. But he believed the decision to dismiss him was unduly harsh given the evidence which was put forward in mitigation on his behalf.

He appealed his case on the grounds that the relevant facts were not properly ascertained, that the disciplinary action was disproportionate and that Regulation 4 had not been complied with. Regulation 4 requires that where disciplinary sanction is being considered, due regard shall be had to the record of service, previous conduct and circumstances of the member.

Whilst initiating High Court action, his solicitor provided the appeal board with a written statement of the grounds of the appeal on December 10, 2013, setting out 13 grounds, including failing to consider alternative sanctions, failing to conduct a proper hearing, failing to consider carefully and fully the evidence of witnesses called on behalf of Garda Culbert, and failure to notify him in writing of the reasons for his dismissal as required by law.

In her judgment, Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley quashed both the determination and recommendation of the board of inquiry in relation to the detective. The Garda Commissioner’s subsequent decision to dismiss the detective must be treated as void, she said.

In her 22-page ruling on the case, Ms Justice O’Malley stated: “I do consider it appropriate to remit the matter, to be reheard by a board of inquiry. I do this partly on the basis that I have no evidence as to what happened at the reconvened meeting of the [inquiry] board on 10th February 2014.

“I do not know whether the members of the board had a firm, collective view as to what their reasons had been for a decision made some three months earlier or whether they might have wished to consider the transcripts further. If for some reason they did not finalise their decision at that stage, it might not be helpful to ask them to do so at this stage. In any event, this is a far less complex matter than Kelly in terms of the logistics of a fresh hearing”.

The Kelly case refers to a Supreme Court judgement in an unrelated case involving another garda who had challenged his dismissal from the force.