Handling of ‘Rape Tape’ criticised
Academics complain to Garda Ombudsman about ‘aggressive’ procedures used
A group of academics from National University of Maynooth (NUIM) have sent a statement to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) strongly criticising the handling of the ongoing investigation into the so-called Corrib garda rape-tape incident, which occurred just over a year ago.
The academics, who are members of staff at the Adult and Community Education and the Sociology departments at NUIM, argued that “from the outset” the commission treated their student, Ms Jerrie Ann Sullivan, one of the women at the centre of the rape-tape, as “the perpetrator rather than the victim” in the situation.
Ms Sullivan was one of the women involved in the incident, first reported in The Mayo News in April 2011, where Gardaí inadvertently taped themselves joking about raping female protestors they had just arrested at the Corrib Gas site in north Mayo.
The academics state: “She (Ms Sullivan) has been subjected to lengthy and aggressive questioning, in one case up to four and a half hours, and forced to take on substantial legal costs as a result.”
Claiming that “[much] misleading information has been published about the incident” they cite the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter’s remarks, about the tape being tampered with, in the wake of the interim report last July, as a pithy example.
They explain that repeated attempts were made by academics to negotiate the deletion of other confidential research data, in line with the university’s research ethics principles. These files were recorded separately and some time earlier by Ms Sullivan on the video camera.
They also note that two members of NUIM staff were branded as “suspects” and threatened with possible criminal prosecutions because of “tampering with evidence”.
“Throughout the process, the Ombudsman Commission has shown no ability to understand the researcher’s duty of confidentiality or the workings of modern video cameras. Their attitudes to the victims has been consistently hostile, recalling past treatment of the victims of sexual violence. Similarily, their treatment of NUIM academics has consisted of hostile questioning, demands for instant responses and threats of legal action.”
Reiterating their support for Ms Sullivan, they conclude that she is “a highly courageous and intelligent individual who has stood up for her ethical duty as a researcher as well as her principles as a citizen, at substantial personal cost.”
A spokesman for the commission confirmed yesterday (Monday) that its report into the incident is due to be published next Monday.
The spokesman said the commission was making no response to the statement from the academics or to a Shell to Sea statement, to which the NUIM document was appended.
However, he did say these documents were “very timely since the commission’s report was due to be published next week”.
Last December the Broadcasting Authority’s of Ireland upheld complaints about RTÉ’s television reporting of the commission’s interim report. The report confirmed that the tape had recorded gardaí joking about raping the women if they refused to give their names. The two women, who had engaged in an on-road protest earlier, were not in the garda car when the offending jokes were made. The interim report found no evidence of a criminal offence having been committed by gardaí and no evidence of a breach of discipline.
The signatories to the statement sent to GSOC were: Dr Bríd Connolly, Dept. of Adult and Community Education, Dr Laurence Cox, Dept. of Sociology, Mr Tony Cunningham, Dept. of Sociology, Mr Fergal Finnegan, Dept. of Adult and Community Education, Dr Bernie Grummell, Dept. of Adult and Community Education, Dr Michael Murray, Dept. of Adult and Community Education, Dr Theresa O’Keefe, Dept. of Sociology.
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17 April 2012