Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Questions (252, 253)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

252. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he has taken to set up a public inquiry into the death of a person (details supplied) as per the vote of Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16238/19]

View answer

Niamh Smyth

Question:

253. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the length of time GSOC has taken to investigate complaints in relation to the investigation into the death of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16239/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 252 and 253 together.

Following the Dáil motion last summer, I gave consideration to how I and the Government could best give effect to the motion of the House that a public inquiry be set up into the tragic death of Shane O'Farrell, at the same time, respecting the fact that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, was at that stage still investigating certain matters arising from the fatal road traffic incident. I also sought the advice of the Attorney General on how best to proceed in the circumstances.

I should mention that earlier this year the Seanad passed a motion in the same terms as those of the Dáil motion.

At the end of January, I was notified by GSOC that their investigation relating to possible breaches of Garda disciplinary regulations had concluded. The report and recommendations of that GSOC investigation were sent to the Garda Commissioner. The family were also informed by GSOC of the completion of the investigation. The outcome of the investigation was a recommendation that a number of Garda officers should be subject of a disciplinary process. That is now a matter entirely for the Garda Commissioner and I do not propose to comment further on the matter.

In any event, following the completion of the GSOC process and having informed the Government of the approach I proposed to take, I appointed recently retired District Court Judge Gerard Haughton, to conduct a scoping exercise and to advise me in relation to the case.

I met with members of the family to inform them of the decision. I subsequently provided them with a copy of the terms of reference for Judge Haughton's scoping exercise and invited them to give their views on those terms of reference to Judge Haughton. 

Judge Haughton has met with the family to discuss the terms of reference and to seek their input into any amendments which might be required. In light of his engagement with the family, Judge Haughton will report back to me with any proposals to amend the terms of reference. Once the terms have been settled and he has commenced his scoping exercise, he is required to provide an interim report to me within 8 weeks indicating, inter alia, the expected timeframe for completion of the scoping exercise.

As it stands, Judge Haughton is free to make any recommendation he sees fit, including the freedom to recommend the establishment of any of the various forms of statutory and non-statutory inquiry. If he recommends an inquiry, of whatever type, I have asked him to provide me with draft terms of reference. 

As for the time it took GSOC to investigate complaints, that is a matter entirely for GSOC. I'm sure the Deputy will appreciate, that the volume and nature of complaints received by the Commission in relation to this incident required a thorough investigation in order that the outcome would be seen to be fair and reasonable. I know that it can be frustrating that investigations are not completed as quickly as people would like.  However, our overriding concern must be that investigations are comprehensive and conducted to the highest standards. 

It is the case that GSOC had been seeking further staffing resources to handle the volume of complaints received. I'm pleased that late last year GSOC received sanction for all the additional personnel resources it had sought. I am confident that this will result in the timeframe for investigations improving going forward.