Thursday, 26 February 2004

Questions (66)

Phil Hogan

Question:

63 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has satisfied himself that as drafted, aspects of the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 will retain in many instances the status quo of gardaí being investigated by gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6360/04]

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

The provisions of sections 83 to 91 of the Garda Síochána Bill, 2004 deal with the ways in which complaints against the Garda Síochána are to be investigated by the independent Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

In essence the position is that in cases of death or serious harm to a person, the Ombudsman Commission must investigate the matter itself using its own team of inquiry staff. This applies to all such cases irrespective of whether a complaint has been made. In all instances other than those involving death or serious harm, the commission in its independent discretion may again opt to have the matter investigated by its own staff by conducting a civil type inquiry or criminal investigation as the circumstances require, or it may request the Garda Commissioner to investigate the matter subject to certain conditions, which allow for the possibility that the commission may at any time take over that investigation. The commission could also decide to supervise that Garda Síochána investigation from the very beginning.

In no way do I accept that the Bill provides for a system of investigation where the gardaí investigate themselves which bears any comparison with the present process under the Garda Siochána (Complaints) Act 1986. No matter what route is chosen by the Ombudsman Commission to carry out an investigation under the Bill, whether as a result of a complaint or otherwise, and whether in regard to the most serious allegations relating to the commission of criminal offences or to those at the lower end of the scale involving breaches of discipline, the policy as reflected in the Bill is that the Ombudsman Commission retains control and direction over the whole proceedings.