Belfast Telegraph

Police chief 'sorry' for offence

Ireland's police chief has been forced to apologise on behalf of several officers who admitted joking about raping two women protesters in their custody.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said five members of his force had been confined to desk-bound duties while police watchdog the Garda Ombudsman investigates.

Four of the officers at the centre of the so-called "rape tape" controversy have also been transferred out of their own bases to their divisional headquarters in Castlebar, Co Mayo.

"I am sorry for the offence caused to the community we serve and for the hurt and pain felt, in particular, by victims of sexual crime," Commissioner Callinan said.

The apology came just hours after one of two women protesters involved went public to demand an independent inquiry into the policing of oil giant Shell's contentious gas pipeline project, on the north Mayo coastline.

Jerrie Ann Sullivan, a postgraduate student from Dublin, said the remarks, unwittingly recorded on a video camera, of gardai joking about raping them had been deeply traumatic.

"The words used were horrifying and have caused deep distress," she said. "This is just a glimpse of the reality of the intimidation and the violence the community has been facing for years."

Ms Sullivan and the Shell to Sea campaign have called for the Garda Ombudsman to widen its inquiry and for a separate independent probe headed up by international experts.

It is understood the Ombudsman report will take a number of weeks to complete before being sent to the Garda Commissioner with any recommendations, which could include dismissal from the force.

The watchdog can also ask the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider taking a case if a criminal offence has been committed, but sources suggest sanctions would more likely involve some of the officers being fined, permanently transferred and possible demotion.

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