Written Answers. - Vexatious Complaints Against Gardaí.

Peadar Clohessy

Question:

38 Mr. Clohessy asked the Minister for Justice, in view of the fact that recent figures relating to the Garda Complaints Board indicate that a very high number of complaints against members of the Garda Síochána are vexatious, the plans, if any, she has to amend the Act to allow for some vindication of gardaí against whom such allegations have been made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2028/94]

The Garda Síochána Complaints Board Annual Report for 1993, which I have submitted to the Government prior to its being laid before each House of the Oireachtas, does not show that a very high number of the complaints received are vexatious. The report shows a decrease both proportionately and in real terms in vexatious complaints over 1992.

As I have stated on previous occasions, there is already statutory provision in section 12 of the Criminal Law Act, 1976, making it an offence to make, knowingly, a false report or statement tending to show that an offence has been committed. A complainant, therefore, who, for example, falsely accuses a member of the Garda Síochána of assaulting him is already liable to criminal sanction.

In its first triennial report covering the years 1987 to 1989, the board addressed the question of whether the Garda Síochána (Complaints) Act, 1986, should be amended to provide penalties for the making of a vexatious complaint. The board was of the opinion that further criminalisation might deter more genuine complaints than truly malicious ones and that, in any event, it would be very difficult to successfully prosecute a vexatious complainant. Furthermore, the board felt that the introduction of penalties under the Act could have the opposite effect to that intended in that more vexatious complaints could enter the system if the board's and the chief executive's decisions on such complaints were to be used as a basis for criminal prosecutions. The board, therefore, concluded that the existing provisions in the Garda Síochána (Complaints) Act were adequate.
In its 1993 annual report, the board has considered the matter again in some detail and concluded that while vexatious complaints are undoubtedly a cause for concern because of the waste of resources and the effect on the morale of those complained of, it should continue its present policies of ensuring that as few such complaints as possible get into the system and of pursuing the possible prosecution of complainants in those cases which emerge as vexatious only after the investigation process. I will consider carefully any further recommendations which the board may choose to make in this matter.