Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Questions (447)

Niall Collins

Question:

447. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the mechanisms his Department has to assess Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission reports and recommendations contained therein; the number of GSOC reports his Department has received since March 2011; if he has seen same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15406/14]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Section 80 of the Garda Act 2005 sets out a number of statutory reports required to be submitted to the Minister for Justice and Equality. These include annual reports, a five year report, and any other reports GSOC considers appropriate to draw to the attention of the Minister because of their gravity or other exceptional circumstances.

Annual reports have been received for 2010, 2011 and 2012. The GSOC five year report, reviewing the general performance of its functions, was received in 2011. In addition to these GSOC considered two reports as appropriate to be brought to the attention of the Minister. The first, in 2011, related to an investigation of alleged comments by members of An Garda Síochána regarding female protestors arrested at a "Shell to sea" demonstration and the second, in 2013, related to informant handling procedures in An Garda Síochána. All reports submitted under section 80 are laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as practicable after their receipt in accordance with section 80(6) of the Garda Act 2005.

Section 106 of the Garda Act provides that, for the purpose of preventing complaints arising or of reducing the number of complaints, I as Minister may request the Ombudsman Commission to examine a practice, policy or procedure of the Garda Síochána. This request may be made on my own initiative or following a recommendation by the Ombudsman Commission. To date, only one section 106 report has been completed by GSOC, this was in relation to the Garda fixed charge processing scheme and the report was submitted in 2009. I published this report on my Department's website last week.

Section 103 of the Garda Act 2005 requires GSOC to provide information to certain parties to keep them informed of the progress and results of investigations. In cases where an investigation resulted from a complaint, these parties include the complainant, the member of An Garda Síochána whose conduct is the subject of a complaint and the Garda Commissioner. It does not include the Minister although there is provision for "any other person that the Commission considers has a sufficient interest in the matter". Where the investigation arises from a referral from the Garda Commissioner (s.102(1)), a decision by the Ombudsman Commission that an investigation is desirable in the public interest (s.102(4)), or a referral by the Minister (s.102 (5)), the Act provides that the Minister is one of the parties to be kept informed of the progress and results of investigations.

With regard to the receipt of GSOC reports of investigations, all reports received from GSOC are initially assessed by officials of my Department who will consider whether any additional action is required. This would include considering whether there are issues in the report which should be brought to my specific attention or to the attention of another area of the Department or other relevant body.

Records are not maintained in a manner that would enable me to readily provide the Deputy with a detailed breakdown of such reports received. As an indication of the number of such reports, the GSOC annual reports show they received 72 referrals in 2012 from the Garda Commissioner under s.102(1), with 90 in 2011 and 103 in 2010.

Question No. 448 answered with Question No. 413.