Gardaí attached to a rural district have told management they now fear for their personal safety due to a lack of adequate transport.
Officers based at Milford station in Donegal have in recent months suffered both verbal and physical abuse at the hands of detainees because the station has no patrol van on site.
The situation has reached such a dire level, Gardaí are considering taking action against the force under health and safety rules, the Irish Independent can reveal.
In one disturbing incident, three officers were forced to disembark a Garda vehicle after a man with a raft of convictions began indiscriminately spitting on them. The Gardaí waited on the side of the road for a prisoner patrol van to arrive from a station located 30km away in Letterkenny.
The criminal in question is well-known to Gardaí, and sources said it was entirely unsuitable for him to be transferred in the back of a routine patrol car.
The patrol car itself was grounded for several days because it was contaminated with saliva.
Officers at Milford have repeatedly pleaded with Garda management for a new public order van after the original was withdrawn in 2013.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has also warned that members’ safety would be put at risk unless the vehicle fleet was upgraded. A detailed business plan sent to management states that there are health and safety issues associated with transporting individuals’ long distances – as is often the case in rural Donegal.
“Members are in real danger of being assaulted or injured, and the only way to reduce this risk is to have a public order van with cell accommodation available,” the plan states.
“Failure to replace the van will result in public order incidents being more resource intensive, reduce the efficiency of personnel development, and expose the organisation to significant risk of litigation.”
Despite the detailed business plan being presented, Garda management has to date failed to provide a replacement vehicle. This is despite the fact that Deputy Garda Commissioner Donal O’Cualáin told a recent Oireachtas committee hearing that management had improved morale in the force by renewing Garda fleets.
Contacted last night, the GRA representative in Donegal, Brendan O’Connor, confirmed that members were considering taken action under health and safety legislation.
“Certainly the lack of proper Garda vehicles, and the failure to provide proper prisoner transport, has resulted in significant health and safety hazards,” Garda O’Connor said.
“I am coming under pressure from Gardaí to take action on their behalf, because the situation is becoming intolerable.”