A Garda Inspector has successfully challenged a refusal by the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, to backdate a promotion which had been delayed because he was the subject of false and baseless allegations which were the subject of an investigation by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.
The High Court ruled in favour of an application by Inspector Tom Quinn for a judicial review of the Garda Commissioner's decision in March 2020 to reject a request by his representative body, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, to have his promotion backdated after being cleared of any wrongdoing.
Mr Justice Charles Meenan said Mr Harris had failed to provide "any rational reason or legal hurdle" why the promotion could not be backdated.
The application was opposed by the Commissioner who claimed Insp Quinn was out of time in lodging the case, while Mr Harris also relied on the discretionary nature of the promotion process.
Insp Quinn, a member of An Garda Síochána for over 24 years who is stationed in Mullingar, was put on a panel for promotion to the rank of inspector in November 2018.
The following month, he was involved in an incident where he discharged a firearm during the search of a property in Granard, Co Longford.
The owner of the house, Edward Stokes, subsequently filed a complaint to GSOC in which he claimed the garda had waved his weapon at him and his wife before "deliberately and calmly" shooting him in the foot.
However, Insp Quinn claimed he had fired the gun because he was in "great fear" for his life as he was being dragged to the ground by a Belgian Shepherd Malinois, which had been set on him by Mr Stokes who had also attacked him and another individual with a slash hook.
Insp Quinn said a bullet had hit the dog in the neck before ricocheting off the road and hitting Mr Stokes in the foot.
He said he became the subject of intense abuse after footage of the incident which had been filmed by Mr Stokes' wife, Sharon, subsequently appeared on social media and he was warned that he and his home were in danger of attack.
The High Court heard that GSOC had concluded that Insp Quinn's discharge of his firearm was lawful and justified.
GSOC sent a file to the DPP seeking directions on whether Mr Stokes should be prosecuted for making a false statement.
It also found there was insufficient evidence to support any breach of discipline by Insp Quinn when he was the subject of a second complaint by Mr Stokes who alleged the garda was winking and laughing at him in a supermarket in Granard on April 15, 2019.
However, the court heard that the Garda Commissioner deferred the applicant's promotion to inspector from January 7, 2019 when a series of promotions was announced because of the GSOC inquiry until August 28, 2019.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Meenan said it was clear that Mr Stokes' false allegations had delayed Insp Quinn's promotion by over seven months.
The judge said this had "serious and ongoing consequences" for the applicant in terms of loss of pay and pension rights and future promotion.
He noted that the Garda Commissioner claimed that Insp Quinn was asking the High Court to usurp his function in overseeing promotion for gardaí.
However, Mr Justice Meenan said it was clear that Mr Harris was relying on the GSOC investigation and not any general discretion in his decision not to promote Insp Quinn in January 2019.
The judge accepted it was reasonable that a garda should not be promoted while they were the subject of a complaint which, if proven, would make them unsuitable for promotion.
However, he said Insp Quinn faced being penalised because of the Commissioner's decision not to backdate his promotion.
Quoting another judge, Mr Justice Meenan said such a decision was "unreasonable in the sense of flying in the face of fundamental reason and common sense."
He said the inspector's constitutional right to equal treatment meant he should be put in the position that he would have been if the false complaint had not been made.
The judge also pointed out that if the promotion was not backdated, it meant the issue would have the "perverse effect" of being determined by Mr Stokes making a false complaint.