Thursday, 29 January 2004

Questions (135)

Joe Costello


132 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the serious public concern expressed at the claims regarding the Garda made on a television programme (details supplied) of 8 January 2004, particularly the suggestion by a retired Circuit Court judge that members of the Garda had committed perjury in his court; the steps he intends to take to end any abuses by members of the force and restore public confidence in the Garda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2583/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I have already responded in this matter to a question from Deputy Haughey on Tuesday, 27 January 2004. My position is clear. Any allegations of serious wrongdoing by members of the Garda Síochána, such as those broadcast on the Prime Time programme, are of serious concern to me. Some of these cases were previously reported and in the public domain, and either have been or may be dealt with in the courts or by the existing complaints and disciplinary mechanisms, and I will not comment on the specific details of each case.

I regard it as essential that there should be in place a mechanism for dealing with such cases which commands public confidence. In this regard I will shortly be publishing a Garda Síochána Bill, the draft scheme of which was approved by Government and published in July 2003, one of the principal aims of which will be the establishment of such a mechanism which will address the acknowledged shortcomings of the existing law and procedures in this area.

The Garda Siochána Bill will provide for the establishment of a fully independent ombudsman body which will have wide powers to investigate complaints made against members of the Garda Síochána. The new body will also be able to investigate policies and practices of the Garda Síochána, where such policies and practices may be the cause of complaint.

I am informed by the Commissioner that a senior Garda officer has been appointed to examine all matters that featured in the programme, and to report with recommendations. I will consult with the Commissioner further on this matter in due course.