Garda unit set up to investigate ‘predators’ in the armed forces – The Irish Times

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has set up a national unit to investigate allegations of sexual assault and rape by “predators” within the Defense Forces.

The operation came ahead of the release of last week’s Independent Review Group (IRG) report, which detailed widespread abuses within the military, including attempts to cover up grievances and prosecute victims.

Mr Harris revealed the existence of the operation on Tuesday at the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) annual conference. He said his job was to track down “predators” within the Defense Forces. The Garda has already had 26 “historic” complaints from members of the Defense Forces. That number is expected to rise after the release of the hard-hitting IRG report, he said.

The unit, which is part of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau, also reviews historical complaints to ensure all previous allegations of sexual abuse within the Defense Forces have been properly investigated.

The unit was set up during the IRG’s year-long review process and in consultation with military authorities. Mr Harris said complaints from retired and serving members of the Defense Forces were being investigated. “We were in discussions with military authorities prior to the IRG report and this seemed to us a prudent move to be ready to take serious sexual assault complaints,” the commissioner said.

The move was welcomed by the Defense Forces, who said they fully supported the initiative. “The Defense Forces Military Police Corps stands ready to assist An Garda Síochána at any time should the need arise,” a spokeswoman said.

Asked whether the military police would have a role in the investigation, Mr Harris said: “We consider ourselves competent in investigating complaints of serious sexual assault.”

Individual complaints are investigated by departmental protection service units, but they return information to the national unit that collects the data. This will identify potential patterns and connections between cases. Mr Harris said. “There can be predators out there and we want to make sure we collect all evidence and report it to the DPP where individuals are accused of multiple offences.”

Some of the reports received from Gardaí date back to the 1960s, Mr Harris said, and some have already been investigated.

Specialist Gardaí “stands by” to take complaints in the wake of the IRG report, which found, among other things, that women were “hardly tolerated” within the defense forces.

“We would like to encourage people who wish to make a complaint to contact a Garda department and their complaint will be treated confidentially and reported to the Director of Public Prosecutions,” the commissioner said.

One of the recommendations of the IRG report was that the Garda should take over criminal investigations by Defense Forces military police, particularly those relating to sexual abuse.

The IRG concluded that the defense forces were “not a safe work environment” for either men or women. Garda unit set up to investigate ‘predators’ in the armed forces – The Irish Times

Dais Johnston

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