THE report of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) into complaints made against the gardaí by Ian Bailey and Jules Thomas of Schull, alleging wrongful arrests of them in connection with the December 1996 murder of French woman Sophie Toscan du Plantier, and that the garda members investigating her death conducted a corrupt investigation in so far as it related to Mr Bailey, is far from satisfactory given that GSOC was unable to compel witnesses to co-operate and that a number of retired gardaí refused to do so and that some of those investigating had died since.
Working with what limited evidence they were able to attain, GSOC investigators concluded that the arrests were lawful and also that one of the key witnesses, Marie Farrell, had not been coerced by gardaí into giving evidence that implicated Mr Bailey, although there were concerns about the nature of one member of the force’s relationship with her.
The most disturbing parts of the report relate to errors in the Garda investigation into the murder, especially in relation to missing items of evidence – the most significant being a blood-stained gate which was taken from the crime scene for examination and which subsequently disappeared. How could that happen?
There were also concerns about pages missing from Garda notebooks – whether or not they were deliberately removed and why – and the report notes ‘a lack of administration of and management of the investigation.’ Nobody is named and blamed for having responsibility for any of this.
The report, which took some six years to compile and is only 36 pages long, admits that it was not possible for GSOC ‘to fully establish some of the details,’ nor does it have the power to hold people accountable where adverse findings are made.
Is there any real point in holding such toothless investigations if there are not consequences for those who refuse to co-operate or are deemed to have acted unlawfully? The government must legislate to give GSOC the type of powers it needs.