Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was not asked to appear at tribunal into PSNI ‘spying’ during investigation
11th December 2022
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was not asked to give evidence at a recent tribunal examining allegations about covert operations during a PSNI investigation.
Prior to taking over at An Garda Síochána in 2018, Mr Harris had been, as PSNI deputy chief constable, an investigating officer during an alleged bribery inquiry into the awarding of PSNI vehicle contracts.
Nine men, including several former and serving police officers, were questioned in 2014 during the investigation, which was code-named Operation Henley, but no charges were brought.
At the time, the PSNI said the men had been questioned on suspicion of several offences including bribery, misconduct in public office and procuring misconduct in public office.
A number of those questioned subsequently made a complaint to the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (PONI) in which they alleged misconduct against senior PSNI officers who were involved in the Henley investigation.
However, a PONI report, which was published in 2018, exonerated the senior investigating officers including Mr Harris and the then PSNI chief constable George Hamilton.
Also exonerated was Hugh Hume, a former head of the PSNI’s crime operations department, who retired from the force in 2017 shortly before taking up a role as Deputy Chief Inspector of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate.
The fallout from Operation Henley took another twist last week when the PSNI admitted it had broken intelligence-gathering rules to spy on some senior officers involved in the case.
Former West Yorkshire chief constable Mark Gilmore, an ex-PSNI officer, and retired PSNI assistant chief constable Duncan McCausland, both of whom were questioned during Operation Henley, had asked the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) to examine their concerns about the way they were investigated by the PSNI.
The IPT is a judicial body which operates independently of government to provide a “right of redress for anyone who believes they have been a victim of unlawful action by a public authority using covert investigative techniques”.
A barrister acting for the IPT told a hearing in London earlier this year that Mr Gilmore and Mr McCausland’s complaint related to the alleged behaviour of a detective inspector involved in the Henley investigation.
She said judges had been provided with statements alleging the inspector had asked a manager at a police recreational complex in Belfast, and another member of staff, to “carry out observations in relation to” Mr Gilmore and Mr McCausland when they were at the complex.
Ms Davidson indicated that the inspector disputed allegations made against him.
On December 1, the IPT had been due to hold its first ever hearing in Northern Ireland — which was to look into the allegations made by Mr Gilmore and Mr McCausland.
However, the Belfast hearing did not proceed following a last-minute admission by the PSNI it had broken its own rules during the Henley investigation.
A lawyer for the PSNI told the hearing the force had agreed to pay costs to the two former officers, along with an “undisclosed sum” in compensation.
The IPT can request people who may have relevant evidence to their investigation to appear before a tribunal hearing but does not have the powers to force potential witnesses to appear.
A garda spokesperson last week told the Sunday Independent that Commissioner Harris had not been asked to give evidence at the recent hearing in Belfast.
However, speaking after the hearing, Ernie Waterworth, a solicitor for Mr Gilmore and Mr McCausland, said some PSNI witnesses had declined to take part.
Mr Waterworth said his clients were taking a civil action against the PSNI in relation to the same matter and said summonsed witnesses would be required to attend to give evidence.