Written Answers. - Garda Complaints Board Report.


asked the Minister for Justice if, in view of the backlog of cases which has already been built up by the Garda Complaints Body, he intends to respond to the request from the Board for more resources to allow them to discharge their duties; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


asked the Minister for Justice if he will make a statement on the annual report of the Garda Síochána Complaints Board 1987-1988.


asked the Minister for Justice arising out of the recent report of the Garda Síochána Complaints Board, if his attention has been drawn to any evidence which indicates that there may be a significant number of contrived complaints lodged in order to occupy the time of the complaints board; if he has satisfied himself with the operations of the board in general; and if he proposes any changes in respect of the board's work.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 36, 67 and 68 together.

The report of the Garda Síochána Complaints Board 1987-1988 is, in my view, a very full account of the first year of operation of the board. It sets out in considerable detail statistics relating to the various categories of complaints received and to the action taken or being taken in respect of them. The total number of complaints received is 1,015. At first sight this would seem to be a matter for some concern but it is noted that the board's view, based on comparisons which they make, is that the number is not "particularly large". Obviously, the matter is one which will need to be carefully monitored over the coming years with particular regard to the number and type of complaints being made and to the resources needed to deal with them.

The report raises a number of issues which have a bearing on Garda training, personnel management and operational procedures and I will ensure that these will be examined by the Garda authorities. The Garda Complaints Act provides that the board, within three years of its establishment, shall report to me on the working of the system of investigation and adjudication of complaints. The board has stressed that the views expressed in this, its first report, are preliminary and may be altered in the light of further experience.

In relation to the question of contrived complaints, I note that the report indicates that the evidence to the board is that organised abuse of the Garda Síochána Complaints Act is on a relatively small scale and accounts for no more than 1% to 2% of the compaints received by the board. The board also point out that, while about 13% of complaints finalised by them in the first year were found to be vexatious, in the great majority of these cases the complaints appear to have been made as an act of individual retaliation and could not be considered as part of any organised campaign. The report makes it clear that where evidence exists that a complaint was made maliciously, the board will normally refer the papers to the DPP.

As regards the question of resources, the position is that the allocation of resources to any particular State funded body must be considered in the context of the constraints which apply to all areas of public expenditure at the present time. Notwithstanding those constraints the 1989 financial allocation for the board represents a 20% increase over that for 1988 and an additional staff member has been assigned to the board within the past few months. In addition, the question of the staffing of the board will be considered in the light of a review of the board's workload which is nearing completion.