Thursday 29 September 2016

Concern over Garda handling of evidence

David Kearns

Published 01/08/2016 | 02:30

An internal Garda audit committee has raised concerns over the force’s handling of evidence, including drugs and cash. Stock Image
An internal Garda audit committee has raised concerns over the force’s handling of evidence, including drugs and cash. Stock Image

An internal Garda audit committee has raised concerns over the force's handling of evidence, including drugs and cash.

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In its 2015 annual report, the committee expressed concern over the proper control, management and recording of drugs and cash seized as part of criminal investigations.

Headed by former secretary general of the Department of Defence Michael Howard, the Committee said "close attention was needed to address a lack of safeguards in the handling of valuable and, often, vital evidence".

In its report, the audit committee listed 23 of what it called "outstanding high priority audit recommendations" out of a total of 44 relating to the management of "drugs exhibits, property and evidence, including cash held at Garda stations, at the end of 2015".

Just over a year ago a previous internal Garda report warned that it was "critical" for stations to provide adequate additional storage facilities in line with best practice.

The committee added that, although its recommendations had "by and large" been implemented, there still remained "property management issues" which needed to be resolved.

"This was the highest single category of unresolved audit recommendations at year-end," it said.

A spokesperson for the Garda Representative Association told the Irish Independent that the group had "no comment" to make about the findings.

It should be noted that the audit in no way suggests that the issues it raises are related to any wrongdoing on behalf of any members of An Garda Síochána.

The report also states that all cases involving concerns about the handling and storage of evidence were investigated by "appointed investigative officers in line with policy".

Vacancies

However, it does note that there were 25 cases of suspected fraud by members of the force or by civilian staff during 2015, compared to 26 cases in 2014.

The committee said that, due to staff vacancies, it had "limited capacity to audit across the Garda organisation within a reasonable time-frame".

There were unfilled vacancies - including that of a "professional accountant", it said.

In its conclusions, the committee was satisfied that, in general, there were adequate systems of control across the Garda organisation, although "close attention is needed in the area of the management of property and evidence".

In 2016, the committee plans to review compliance with procurement procedures, while also looking at the recoupment of overpayments of salary and pensions, and the area of court warrants.

Irish Independent

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