A GARDA charged with the assault and false imprisonment of a Dublin bus driver has been cleared of all wrongdoing after standing trial in Dublin District Court last Friday.
Garda Noel Gibbons, who has presented RTÉ’s Crimecall programme, expressed relief at the verdict, adding that the two year "nightmare" ordeal was now behind him.
He faced charges brought by the Siochana Ombudsman Commissioner of section two assault, false imprisonment and providing false information.
The charges stemmed from an encounter that took place on September 15, 2018 when the garda pulled over a bus driver, David Stamper, for flashing him in a bus lane. Following the incident, Mr Gibbons was investigated and later charged for what the commissioner deemed to be an unlawful use of police powers.
The charges were thrown out last Friday by Judge Conal Gibbons, however, after the court was told there was "no case" to answer by the guard's legal team, defence counsel Keith Spence and solicitor Donal Quigley.
In his closing remarks the Judge said: "I have to say it is difficult to understand how this relatively minor incident between the garda and another road user escalated and metamorphosed into a full-blown prosecution."
Last Friday's verdict was welcomed by supporters of Garda Gibbons, whose career has been destroyed by the two-year ordeal, according to a close friend.
"Noel has been in a living hell - he could have lost everything", they said.
"His life has been in limbo for over two years, he has also missed out on a possible promotion and now faces a legal bill running into thousands.
"There have been cases in the past where guards have taken their lives because they couldn’t cope with the pressure of a GSOC investigation then only to be cleared.
"GSOC were told from the outset that there was no case to answer after they received CCTV but they still persisted with it. They refused to withdraw the prosecution and the question has to be asked why? The judge told the court that Garda Gibbons did nothing wrong at any juncture."
The incident occurred after bus driver David Stamper flashed the Garda multiple times while both men were driving in a bus lane.
Gibbons, left "dazzled" by the lights as he was turning into the station, pulled over the Stamper and asked for his driver's licence details.
When Stamper refused to provide his details, the garda arrested him and brought him back to Pearse Street station, whereupon the bus driver "went on the offensive".
Stamper demanded to speak to a senior officer before lodging a complaint with the GSOC. The case was handed over to public prosecutions who then notified the garda last March that he was being charged.
When heard in court, however, the presiding Judge Gibbons "did not believe Stamper's evidence" and stated clearly that the garda had acted lawfully.
The decision to charge has come under scrutiny by the Garda Representative Association, who have requested a review of the GSOC’s internal decision-making processes.
GRA spokesman, Damien McCarthy said: “The comments made by the presiding judge last week have reinforced the grave concerns within our membership. They cannot understand why criminal prosecutions are being launched.
"Too many of our members have endured unwarranted stress and worry for protracted periods of time as a result of vexatious complaints.
"This has a negative impact upon their wellbeing - and cannot be accepted as an occupational hazard.
"There must be effective oversight of the GSOC to ensure they are meeting the highest standards of public sector values."