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  • John Wilson

    Former Garda John Wilson

    In a Judicial Review Application heard earlier this year Wilson v. Superintendent Farrell [2014] IEHC 201 (High Court, O’Malley J, 11 April 2014) the High Court refused judicial review of a decision by An Garda Síochána to request an explanation for the presence of a serving member John Wilson, then serving at Clones Garda station, at a criminal trial at Cavan Courthouse while off duty, and to establish a disciplinary enquiry arising from his refusal to provide an explanation.
    Readers will already be familiar with the more recent publicity surrounding retired Garda John Wilson in respect of his whistleblower reports and his recent appearance on the Late Late Show. While he is a resident of County Cavan, John served in Clones, County Monaghan. This case however concerned an unrelated event during the Garda`s service at Clones Garda station; although it is possibly indicative of the Garda`s insistence in standing his ground where he believes that there is a principle to be established. In this instance however, the High Court did not believe that the Garda was correct.
    Circumstances giving rise to Enquiry

    Garda Wilson was disciplined for his failure to comply with an order to give

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    an account of activity he engaged in while off duty. During a District Court prosecution arising from dispute between neighbours the Garda attended and sat beside one of the accused. He was off duty and not in uniform at the time. As a result of a report issued by Inspector Aidan Farrelly, a direction was issued by  the Chief Superintendant to Garda Wilson to report on the issue and account for his presence. Garda Wilson`s response was that he would report when Inspector Farrelly clarified what he was insinuating about him.

    A Disciplinary Hearing ensued

    Arising out of Garda Wilson`s failure to report there was a disciplinary inquiry, as a result of which Garda Wilson was disciplined.  The Garda`s response was to issue judicial review proceedings seeking the Court`s decision on whether the decision to hold the disciplinary enquiry was unreasonable. Ms. Justice Iseult O’Malley was of the view that the Chief Superintendant was quite within his rights to demand a report, stating :

    I therefore consider that the Chief Superintendent was entitled to ask for an explanation as to the presence of the applicant at the trial, and having directed that he give an explanation, was entitled to an adequate response. Instead, the first response of the applicant was to ask what the Inspector was “insinuating” about him. This was clearly suggestive of some degree of bad faith on the part of the Inspector but that suggestion was not elaborated upon in the course of the correspondence, at any stage of the disciplinary procedure or in these proceedings. Instead the applicant began to query the authority of his superiors and to demand chapter and verse from regulations and from correspondence. In my view, the respondents were entitled to consider that his failure to deal with the matter more promptly and appropriately amounted to neglect of duty.”


    In coming to her Decision Ms. Justice O’Malley noted that it was the case that a member of the Garda Síochána has, like every other person, a right to privacy and to a private life. However, it was also true that, because of the position in the public life of the community held by members of the force, that right must be considered to be somewhat more restricted than it is for people in many other occupations. It was, she noted, a fact of life, reflected in the Garda Regulations, that the behaviour of a Garda, while off duty, can have a damaging impact on the reputation of the force as a whole. The view of the courts, as established in an earlier case of Straker v Doherty, is that the assessment of such behaviour is, at least in the first instance, a matter for the Garda authorities.

    Before Whistleblowing

    Gardai – before Whistleblowing

    John Wilson has made very public efforts to ensure that the actions of Gardai, while on duty, are above reproach (and the writer does not question his integrity on this). Is however a Chief Superintendent not entitled to require a Garda to report on his attendance in support of an accused at a District Court Prosecution where members of the public might reasonably question the Garda`s  motives for attending?