A JUDGE has accused An Garda Siochana of taking a “vindictive approach” to a Limerick garda by investigating a case of perjury against him, after he was suspended for having no tax or NCT.
Garda Michael O’Shaughnessy, who was attached to Henry Street garda station in the city, was ordered last November to make a contribution of €3,500 to St Vincent de Paul after he was prosecuted for driving without an NCT or tax on separate dates in 2011.
A garda inspector had told the court that he spotted Garda O’Shaughnessy at Mill Lane, Limerick, on May 9 and May 31, 2011, and said the car had not been taxed since March 31, and that the NCT on the vehicle had been out of date since October 2010.
Garda O’Shaughnessy denied the charges and in direct evidence said that he was not in Limerick on May 31, and on May 9 was driving a different vehicle. He was suspended pending the internal garda investigation into the circumstances of the incident. In that case, Judge Eugene O’Kelly marked the “facts proven” but did not record a conviction following the contribution to the local charity.
At Limerick District Court on Thursday last, State solicitor Michael Murray made an application to seek access for transcripts of the tape recordings of the court hearings in relation to that case, urging that such transcripts are necessary in any investigation in relation to perjury.
Mr Murray said since the gardai conducted their initial investigation “they may have unearthed other facts”.
Barrister Brian McInerney said he was opposing the application on a number of grounds, including the “inordinate delay on behalf of the State in bringing this application” to court, and the fact that Judge O’Kelly had already heard evidence and made a ruling on the case.
Judge O’Kelly refused the application, and referring to the original case, said: “What disturbed me at the time was the manner in which he was investigated and prosecuted”.
He said when the offences were detected they were not put to the garda for a numbers of months, and he didn’t know why there was an “unusual delay in this case.”
Judge O’Kelly said while Garda O’Shaughnessy gave evidence that he did not accept, “under no circumstances did I believe he was perjuring himself”.
He said if he did believe that to be the case, he would have forwarded the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“The State solicitor in the city of Limerick says that in 30 years he has only dealt with three to four cases of perjury, which makes me wonder why there is such a determination to make Garda O’Shaughnessy the fifth case,” said Judge O’Kelly.
He said “gardai, by and large, are very humane in dealing with members of the public, but no such opportunity was afforded to Garda O’Shaughnessy.”
The case attracted widespread attention across the local and national media, to such an extent that he was “propelled onto the national stage, embarrassed and ashamed”, said the judge.
In his ruling, the judge said he imposed a sum of money to be paid “which would hurt Garda O’Shaughnessy, but he gathered it together”.
He said to record a conviction in addition to the monetary penalty “would have been so harsh as to be cruel. Now the State are proceeding to have another go at him for perjury.”
“I am impressed by the number of times gardai stand up and say [in court] that an accused person has put his house in order and that they want to withdraw the charges.
“Clearly the garda authorities are not satisfied in this case, and are seeking a vindictive approach to this prosecution.”
He added that he was satisfied that Garda O’Shaughnessy “was mistaken in his recollections” regarding the dates of the offences, but did not perjure himself.
Garda O’Shaughnessy is now back on duty and serving outside the Limerick jurisdiction.