On 31 March 2019, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (“GSOC”) published its 2018 Annual Report.
Some of the key 2018 figures quoted in this report include:
- GSOC received a total of 1,921 complaints in 2018, which contained 2,944 allegations. The three most common circumstances which gave rise to complaints were: the conduct of investigations by Gardaí, road policing incidents and customer service;
- 38 referrals were received from An Garda Síochána regarding matters where it appears “the conduct of a member of the Garda Síochána may have resulted in the death of, or serious harm to, a person”;
- 17 files were referred to the DPP, resulting in 4 directions for prosecution, 9 directions for no prosecution and 4 decisions pending;
- 24 protected disclosures were made to GSOC by members and/or employees of An Garda Síochána under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014;
- 17 public interest investigations (those investigations undertaken in the absence of a complaint or referral by the Garda Commissioner) were opened and 14 were closed;
- 74 sanctions were imposed by the Garda Commissioner on individual Gardaí following complaints to and/or investigations by GSOC.
551 of the complaints received in 2018 were deemed to be inadmissible as the allegations contained in them did not fulfil the admissibility criteria laid out in the Garda Síochána Act 2005.
Common reasons for inadmissibility of complaints included:
Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland
- Does not constitute misbehaviour – 73%
- Out of time (12 months after the date of the conduct complained of) - 14%
GSOC’s report refers to the publication of the 2018 report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland and indicates that it welcomes this report, which is a major development and its recommendations will have significant implications for GSOC.
In brief, the Commission’s report outlines that there must be independence in the handling of complaints which relate to Garda conduct and recommends that GSOC be superseded by a new independent complaints body, bearing a new name to make it clear that it is independent of An Garda Síochána.
It is proposed that this independent complaints body would investigate incidents rather than individuals, with a focus on whether policing occurred in accordance with accepted standards rather than whether or not an individual Garda breached disciplinary Regulations.
Complaints would be dealt with initially by this new body, which would ascertain whether the complaint was a performance management issue, in which case this would be referred to An Garda Síochána to review, or one which outlined serious issues regarding the standards of policing and therefore required independent investigation.
The new body would investigate all complaints which raised serious issues, without recourse to Garda investigators (most complaints of a non-criminal nature are currently investigated by senior Gardaí on behalf of GSOC), and would be adequately resourced to do so.
Local Intervention Initiative
In addition, GSOC’s report outlines a new pilot local intervention scheme, which was established in 2018 in conjunction with GSOC. This scheme was implemented to address the lack of satisfaction amongst complainants who make complaints of failure in service provision by Gardaí.
Types of issues considered suitable for local intervention include:
- Poor quality or standard of service provided;
- Inefficient or no service provided;
- Lack of response to communications.
The process begins with gaining consent from the complainant to local intervention with a nominated Garda Inspector appointed. The nominated Inspector then contacts the complainant with a view to establishing the outcomes the complainant hopes to achieve.
Following this, the nominated Inspector contacts the Garda complained of in relation to the issues raised. The Inspector will contact the complainant to advise on the action taken to address the matter and if the matter is resolved to the complainant’s satisfaction, the outcome is notified to GSOC.
If the matter is not resolved, the Inspector informs GSOC who will then decide on what further action, if any, is to be taken.
This pilot scheme for resolving service level complaints began in the Dublin Metropolitan (South Central) Region at the beginning of 2018 with 62% of complaints being resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant.
The pilot scheme was further extended to the South Eastern Region - comprising of Carlow/Kilkenny, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford in the latter part of 2018 with arrangements being made for the introduction of this scheme with the DMR (West) Region in 2019.
For further information click the following links to the GSOC Annual Report of 2018
published on 31 March 2019, the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland Report
published on 18 September 2018 as well a link to Fieldfisher’s blog dated 26 October 2018 on the Commission’s report