Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Watchdog to probe 'rape threat'

Shell to Sea protest spokeswoman Caoimhe Kerins said those involved in the demonstration were now frightened

Ireland's police watchdog is investigating claims that officers threatened to rape protesters at a controversial gas project owned by energy giant Shell.

The Garda Ombudsman took the unusual step of launching a public interest inquiry amid allegations a sergeant and two colleagues laughed about sex attacks on two women at the Corrib scheme in north Mayo.

Their damning conversation was inadvertently taped after a video camera seized from the activists was left recording in the back of a patrol car.

Amnesty International, Rape Crisis Network Ireland and politicians accused the officers of an abuse of power and breach of trust.

One of the campaigners at the centre of the scandal, a member of the anti-Corrib group Shell to Sea, insisted the threats will not deter her from protesting.

"These are supposed to be the men that women go to if they experience a sexual assault or harassment. Who are they supposed to go to now?" the woman asked.

A 37-minute clip of the conversation has been viewed more than 11,000 times online.

Jonathan O'Brien, Sinn Fein justice spokesman, said gardai have a lot of questions to answer: "For somebody to put their trust in the gardai and to have it betrayed in this manner, it's not on and it's very disturbing."

In a statement the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said professionalism, sensitivity and compassion were key to the investigation of sexual crimes.

"An Garda Siochana will continue to work closely with support organisations for victims of sexual crime and other victim support groups to ensure that our policy and approach to the investigation of sexual crime meets, first and foremost, the needs of victims," he said.

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