Just after 11.30pm on December 4, 2016, Garda John left his Dublin station on finishing his shift. He went to the home of his girlfriend, Anne. John and Anne are not the real names of the man and woman at the centre of this story.
Garda John’s career was advancing at pace. He was dedicated to the job and on a list to be appointed a detective. He had been assigned to a unit dealing with serious crime.
Anne lived with her sons, one of whom was a young teenager. She worked in the care sector for which she has been garda vetted. She has no criminal record. The couple had been seeing each other for about three years.
The following morning at 8.30am there was a knock on the door of Anne’s apartment. This was unusual as visitors usually rang up from the main entrance where a swipe card was required for entry.
The visitors on this occasion consisted of at least four detectives or plain clothes gardaí. They filed into the apartment and presented Anne with a search warrant. The basis for the warrant was to assist in an investigation into an alleged “burglary” in which Anne’s teenage son was a suspect.
One of the detectives told her that they were looking for shorts worn by the teenager when he was allegedly involved in the attempted theft of a laptop from an artist’s studio. This incident occurred during daylight hours, involved a premises with easy access for the public and the laptop was recovered at the scene in working order soon after the attempt to steal it. Arguably, it might have been categorised as a theft which is a lesser crime than burglary.
Usually when such an incident occurs a young teenage offender would be referred to a junior liaison officer who would deal with the manner without recourse to the courts or a formal charge. Now, however, a team of gardaí was entering a private residence under warrant in order to crack the crime.
The missing piece of the jigsaw was apparently the shorts, as seen on photographic evidence from the scene. The attempted robbery took place some months earlier in midsummer.
Garda management are adamant that the warrant was executed properly for the stated purpose. Garda John and Anne dispute this vehemently. It is not clear what detail of the matter was presented to the judge who deemed that a warrant to enter the private home was justified.
Anne produced a pair of her son’s shorts which resembled the pair in the evidential photograph. She asked the detective whether or not she should keep her son home from school that day. The reply was that no, there was no need, it was nothing serious.
Early on in the “search” of the apartment that morning one of the detectives entered a bedroom. He encountered Garda John who had spent the night there. According to Garda John this detective said that he’d heard a rumour that Garda John was in a relationship with Anne.
Garda John is alleging that the whole purpose of gaining entry to the apartment under force of a judge-issued warrant was to establish that he was in a relationship with Anne. Two of Anne’s brothers had died in gun violence in the previous decade.
Anne had absolutely no involvement in crime but her family connections were enough to allegedly have alarm bells going off in An Garda Siochána. Her boyfriend was en route to work as a detective, where his preferred deployment was fighting serious or organised crime, and it is logical that somebody in the force felt that this could be compromising, or, at the very least, deserving of an informal chat with Garda John.
Except nobody approached him to discuss the matter, he says. Instead, he claims, the search of his girlfriend’s apartment was organised on what was effectively a bogus premise in order to obtain proof that there was a relationship.
He also claims that as part of such a strategy it was necessary to put him under some form of surveillance in order to be sure that he would be in situ when the gardaí entered the apartment.
He did not stay in Anne’s home every night. The warrant that was executed was created some three weeks earlier in mid-November. In legal documents, seen by the Irish Examiner, Garda John sets out what he believes is at stake.
“The most disturbing fact of the whole situation is how an innocent mother and her children were dragged into a conspiracy to destroy me. This is a total violation of their human rights and shows the disgusting attitude the above members have for the public they are there to protect.”
An Garda Siochána denies that the search warrant was for anything other than following up on the attempted robbery and that there was nothing out of the ordinary about it. The force’s position is that the discovery of Garda John on the premises that morning was merely a coincidence.
Five days after the raid on the apartment the teenager was arrested by appointment at a Dublin garda station. He was interviewed, photographed and fingerprinted and a file opened on him on Pulse. Thereafter, the matter was referred to a juvenile liaison officer which is what would usually happen in the immediate aftermath of such an incident.
Within 24 hours of the incident Garda John was transferred out of his unit. Early the following year he issued High Court proceedings claiming that his career has suffered enormously as a result of the incident and what he alleges has been the fall-out since then.
He also lodged a complaint with Gsoc. Last month, Gsoc determined that the complaint is worthy of a full investigation as to whether any member of the force has a criminal case to answer in relation to the search and subsequent fall-out.