Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Questions (158, 159)

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

159 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of full-time staff that are working in the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission; the way this figure compares with the number of persons employed by the body since its inception; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4272/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission commenced operations on 9 May 2007. Staff were gradually recruited over the next two years and by end 2009 a total of 94 staff were serving in the Ombudsman Commission. Currently there are 85 staff members occupying 84 full time equivalent posts in the organisation. This figure does not include the three Ombudsman Commissioners and two Garda Superintendents who are on secondment from the Garda Síochána.

A new team of Commissioners was appointed in December 2011 and they have the task of guiding the work of the Ombudsman Commission for the next five years. I am satisfied that the organisation will continue to provide effective, fair and balanced oversight of policing in this country. As the Deputy is aware, the moratorium on Public Service Recruitment continues to apply to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

160 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the review of the current Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission system will be complete; if the review will look to maintain and enhance the strength and independence of the GSOC as per the recommendations of Thomas Hammerberg, Commissioner of Human Rights of the Council of Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4273/12]

View answer

I am assuming the Deputy is referring to the report from the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission reviewing the general performance of its functions in the preceding 5 years which is provided for under Section 80(4) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005. I received the first five year report from the outgoing Ombudsman Commission late last year covering its activities since its establishment and this report was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on 11 January 2012.

The role of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission as set out in the Garda Síochána Act 2005 provides for an independent body with statutory functions relating to police oversight. It is vital that such a body is fully independent and I have no plans to alter this position.

The Deputy has also referred to the Report of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Thomas Hammarberg who has stated that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission model "can serve as a role model for other countries". I welcome the support of Commissioner Hammarberg for the Irish police oversight structures. He has made a small number of recommendations in relation to reducing the workload through restructuring and in relation to supervised investigations. I will be meeting the newly appointed Ombudsman Commission within the next week and I will discuss both reports with them. On foot of that meeting, I will consider if further action is needed.