I trust I will not be put out at this stage. I will not say much more about it. It is set out there and I think it is helpful because it indicates that there are various ways of addressing and processing the various complaints. We would visualise that the Garda and the local superintendent would have a very important function but, for people who were not happy, there would be recourse to the central body, the complaints commission.
Earlier we talked about the Ombudsman. Many complaints can be sorted out fairly readily. I should hate to be trying to work on the ones they have in Telecom Éireann. I understand there were 150,000 complaints and only 12,000 were resolved to the satisfaction of the public. They have a problem. The Ombudsman had 1,300 complaints submitted to him; 1,000 have been dealt with already; and 850 were regarded as valid complaints. While they are valid they may be very minor. Presumably that will come out in the report later.
We expect that there will be a fairly reasonable number of complaints but many of them will be of a minor nature. We visualise a large number of the complaints being investigated informally. On that we are in agreement with the Minister. If they cannot be resolved satisfactorily they will go to the commission. Complaints of a more serious nature will go directly to the commission. These will include complaints involving serious injury or the death of a person.
For these reasons we are concerned about having an independent body. I mentioned recent events. There are other allegations but I will not go into them. As Deputy Gregory said, a number of them were covered recently. Each one has its own circumstances. If we had the details and the files we could probably debate each one of them and the legal people could debate the pros and cons.
I have a case which I have passed on to the Minister and I trust he will investigate it. It is the case of a man who is a prisoner in Mountjoy and he claims that he was forced to sign a confession, as he said, by detectives from Dublin. He claims he is innocent. He was convicted on a murder charge. I will not say anything more about that. Constituents come to Deputies with their problems but, on the other hand, we must support the Judiciary and the Garda.
We are dealing with the question of a misuse of certain members of the Garda of the trust we have placed in them. I ask the Minister to consider whether there is a pattern involving the same section or the same people in the Garda. I should like the Minister to look at that because it is a matter of concern at the moment. I would be happy if the Minister would see whether there is any pattern in any section or among any members of the Garda. We must have a procedure which is fair to the public and to the Garda Síochána. We owe it to the Garda Síochána to set out the parameters within which we expect them to work on our behalf. I hope that we can do that in this Bill.
There have been various comments outside the House on our proceedings here. The Garda attitude has been expressed fairly clearly and is daily brought more to our notice. On Friday, November 2, inThe Irish Times under the heading “Gardaí ask Noonan to defer Justice Bill” the general secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, Mr. Murray, said there could be no question of introducing certain measures contained in the Bill until the Garda had completed their negotiations. He said that his association were in favour of a measure of independence when complaints against gardaí were made. He said he would accept that there should be no Garda involvement in the adjudication of an investigation into a complaint, but that the investigation itself would have to remain solely the responsibility of the Garda Síochána.
In theIrish Press of the same day Mr. Murray said that it should be deferred until his members had been fully trained to operate the new procedures and were given the proper facilities and resources needed. He warned the Minister for Justice that they would not allow their members to be placed in compromises where their careers might be in jeopardy because of an obvious lack of resources. Mr. Murray said that there could be no question of introducing certain measures contained in the Bill along with the constraints and disciplinary codes and regulations which would follow them if the facilities available at Garda stations were totally inadequate.
The Garda Síochána at this stage urge the postponement of the Bill on that basis. We recognised here in this House from the beginning, as the Minister has recognised, that it would be necessary to provide training and facilities. The Minister pointed to the fact that it would be possible to carry out this kind of questioning only in certain stations and not in every station. The Minister and the House are very well aware of the requirements in this respect. These have been debated in the House.
It is quite clear from the newspaper articles that the Garda want the investigation to be in their hands only but would accept independent adjudication. This is what I was trying to reason out last week. Whether it was in response to what was being said here, or otherwise, we are certainly helped in our thinking on the subject by the articles which came out since then.
TheGarda News of October 1984 points out on page 4:
On the complaints procedure discussions between the garda associations and departmental officials have been going on now for some time under the aegis of the Garda Conciliation Council. A draft scheme has been talked about in some depth.
It further states:
The new procedure for initiating, investigating and adjudicating on complaints from members of the public against gardaí also properly falls into this category. It is a reasonable assumption therefore, that any new system of this nature would have to be negotiated in the normal way and only after agreement had been obtained on all sides could the new system come into operation. The problem in this instance is that even if agreement on a new system can be obtained (and there is no guarantee that it will) ... the eventual outcome might well be quite different to what the gardaí had previously agreed to.
Obviously there is a second debate going on separately — and quite rightly — in relation to the practical implications of the measures being taken here in the House. It is further stated:
This situation places the Minister in a dilemma. On the one hand he must recognise the legitimate right of the gardaí to negotiate and seek agreement on matters affecting their terms and conditions of employment.
Further, it states:
Again it cannot be denied that on a matter of such major public importance it is proper that the elected representatives of the people be given the opportunity to debate and approve such a measure.
The Minister is now faced with the unenviable task of balancing the legitimate rights both of the gardaí and the legislature with regard to both of these important matters. In so doing he has the close and constant ear of the legislators. He may not therefore, be aware of the strength of feeling that is building up on these issues within the Garda Síochána.
It is quite clear that the Garda Síochána are concerned about these matters. I trust that, regarding the statements made in the papers and periodicals, we can rely on the Garda following the rule of law and accepting the democratic decision of the Oireachtas in relation to the principles involved in this case. I can assure the Minister of the support of my party in that regard. There can be no Garda veto on what the Oireachtas decide. The powers of the Garda Síochána come from the people and from the Oireachtas. We on this side of the House and the Members generally will appreciate the right and proper exercise of the function of the Garda Síochána to negotiate with the Minister on matters like training, facilities and all other related aspects and the question of providing properly for appeals and other matters. Nevertheless, the basic principles of the independence of the institutions that are proposed are a matter for the Oireachtas. I trust that the views expressed are related to the Garda Síochána accepting the function of the Oireachtas in that regard.
We all know that implementation of the proposed measures will involve training and new resources. This has been pointed out in the House by numerous Members in the course of the debate on this Bill. Here we are in agreement with the Garda Síochána. However, when it comes to the principle of who will control the investigation, this is clearly a matter for the Oireachtas.Quis custodiet custodes?— who will guard the guards? The Oireachtas must provide checks and balances in this regard. The complaints procedure can, of course, be used as a source of confidence in those who protect the State and as a safeguard to protect against subversion of public confidence in the force. Without this confidence and a restoration and preservation of Garda morale the task of the Garda would be more difficult. There is no doubt that with the safeguards and regulations which the Minister is proposing to bring before the House and with the complaints procedure the position of the Garda would be strengthened. Their position when they come to court with cases would be strengthened because the safeguards would be seen to have been applied. The conditions for getting convictions in appropriate cases should be strengthened and consequently juries should have more confidence in the decisions that are taken. For this reason we seek an independent Garda Síochána complaints commission to support the Garda in their work.
These are the main points which I want to make in relation to the amendment at this stage. As I have said, we believe they should be independent. We believe that they should cover all the ranks and that all the ranks should be subject to the regulations and the complaints procedure. This would strengthen the position of the Minister and the independence of the whole process. They would be seen to be independent and consequently could be much more readily relied on against any allegations that are being made. That is why I ask the Minister to accept the amendment which we are proposing.