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To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider strengthening the powers of GSOC in order to increase their capacity to hold An Garda Síochána to account.

 - Mick Wallace

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 25th September, 2013

REPLY

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission was established under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 to provide independent oversight of complaints made against members of the Garda Síochána.  The Garda Ombudsman Commission has a hugely important role in ensuring that public confidence in the Garda Síochána is safeguarded, and has extensive powers under the 2005 Act to enable it to carry out its responsibilities.

The 2005 Act also provides for protocols on the sharing of information between the Garda Síochána and the Garda Ombudsman Commission. Protocols were agreed in 2007 and set down time limits for the provision of information by the Garda Síochána to the Garda Ombudsman Commission.

The Garda Ombudsman Commission, however, raised concerns in their 2012 Annual Report regarding delays in concluding their investigations, and in particular delays in receiving requested information from the Garda Síochána.  Concerns regarding Garda response times were also raised by the Garda Ombudsman Commission in the context of their later public interest report which dealt with the handling of covert human intelligence sources by the Garda Síochána.

In response to these concerns I convened a meeting  with the Garda Commissioner and the Chairperson of the Garda Ombudsman Commission on 23 July last to discuss the need for enhanced co-operation between the two bodies so as to ensure the effective and efficient investigation of allegations of Garda misconduct.

Both the Commissioner and the Chairperson agreed on the need for the highest possible level of co-operation between the two organisations, and emphasised that the protocols which deal with the sharing of information and time frames for responses were at that point under review.

I'm please to confirm that revised protocols have now been agreed and were signed by the Chairperson of the Garda Ombudsman Commission and the Garda Commissioner on the 23rd September 2013.  These revised protocols put in place clear procedures for the timely sharing of information and more generally for enhanced co-operation, and I look forward to their implementation. 

 

I should also say that, to facilitate early engagement in relation to any future emerging issues, I have established a committee chaired by a senior official in my Department, with senior representatives from the Ombudsman Commission and the Garda Síochána, to act as a forum where any such issues can be identified and appropriately addressed.

As regards the case for additional powers, the Ombudsman as I say already has extensive powers, including full police powers of investigation.  I am, however, currently examining suggestions by the Ombudsman Commission for changes to the 2005.

   

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