Credit: Wikimedia Commons under CC license

How can we expect Gardaí to do their jobs if they are going to be prosecuted for doing so?

It emerged this week that a garda is to face a criminal prosecution over his driving related to an incident two years ago in which three criminals were killed while fleeing gardaí in a collision on the M7.

A sitting of Dublin District Coroner’s Court on Wednesday 10 May heard that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has directed that a garda involved in the chase of three men – members of a prolific criminal gang based in Tallaght which specialised in burglaries – is to be charged with a driving offence.

The three men who died in the N7 crash were Dean Maguire (29), Karl Freeman (26) and Graham Taylor (31). All were killed instantly when the BMW they were in exploded into flames after a head-on crash with a truck between Citywest and Baldonnel on 7 July 2021. The men had been driving on the wrong side of the road while fleeing from gardaí.

As per, coroner Clare Keane was informed the DPP had decided to initiate prosecution based on a file submitted by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) which investigated the circumstances of the crash.

Designated officer with Gsoc, Seán Campbell, applied for an adjournment of the inquest into the deaths of the three men based on the new development in the live case.

Mr Campbell said the garda facing prosecution was still not aware of the specific offence with which he would be charged, and as a result, he did not wish to comment further on the matter. The Gsoc officer added that he had only been made aware of the DPP’s decision on Tuesday night.

Speaking on Gript’s The Week That Really Was Podcast, Gript Editor and commentator John McGuirk and his co-host, commentator and barrister Sarah Ryan, said that the ongoing case raises huge questions, and that the facts of the case could lead garda to question whether they can carry out their jobs in future without fear of being prosecuted.

John McGuirk prefaced the discussion by reminding listeners that it is a live case currently before the courts.

“If you’re wondering, I’d say that much about it, but I think we can talk in general terms about the fact that a Garda is being prosecuted by the State for apparently dangerous driving after three burglars he was chasing in a car, took their car onto the motorway, drove in the wrong direction down the motorway, and collided with a truck,” Mr McGuirk said.

“A garda is now being investigated by the state for potentially dangerous driving.”

Sarah Ryan pointed to the victims’ previous convictions for burglary, adding that she felt the situation was almost beyond belief.

“There’s more to this than we think, because it couldn’t possibly just simply be this – but so far, it looks like that. Sometimes I think we are just creating an Ireland of, you know, like the Burger King slogan, “Have it your way”.

“So, have it your way – the guards won’t chase people anymore. Have it your way, that we submit a nonsense Hate Speech law where your granny will go to jail because she called someone in the local coffee shop the wrong pronoun.”

Ultimately, she said, the garda was chasing three prolific criminals who were driving “the wrong way up the road.”

John McGuirk pointed out that the gang had a previous conviction for burglary.

“They were more than suspected. They had a rake of previous convictions for burglary. They were being chased on foot of a suspected burglary.”

“[Do] we want to hobble the Gardai and scare gardai away from chasing criminals incase they get prosecuted themselves for dangerous driving?” Sarah Ryan asked, adding:

“Have it your way. See how how that works out, guys.”

John McGuirk told the podcast that the case presents problems for gardai.

“That’s it,” he said. “There may well be stuff that comes out at trial that we do not yet know. I can’t imagine for the life of me what theat might be, but let’s let the State make its case and see what it comes up with.

“But all I’ll say is, just speaking personally, were I a garda, sitting this evening in my patrol car somewhere, and was told that there were suspects fleeing in a car, I would probably think twice on foot of what I had read this week, about pursuing them zealously. Wouldn’t you?”

Sarah Ryan argued that if the case does go through, and no new information comes to light which would change the basics of the case – for example, which would find that the garda acted in a “completely reckless way” – and the garda is put through a trial, the case would “change the culture”.

“All of these things,” she said, “They change the culture. They send messages out to gardai and other people of ‘never mind criminals – these guys won’t chase us anymore.’

“I mean, brilliant? Have it your way, guys – change the culture, change the way garda behave, [but] then don’t be on Twitter, don’t be in newspapers writing articles in a couple of years crying about sentencing of criminals, or crying about the way things turned out – because you asked for it. Have it your way.”

A further hearing in the case is set for 23rd May.

Listen to this week’s podcast in full here.

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