Saturday 1 October 2016

O'Sullivan apologises to crime victims failed by An Garda Síochána

Published 14/06/2016 | 02:30

Garda Commissioner Norin O’Sullivan speaks with Claire Daly
and Imelda and Edwin Tuohey from Justice for All whose
brother David died in garda custody. Photo: Tony Gavin
Garda Commissioner Norin O’Sullivan speaks with Claire Daly and Imelda and Edwin Tuohey from Justice for All whose brother David died in garda custody. Photo: Tony Gavin

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has apologised to victims of crime who have been failed by the force and pledged that the lessons of the O'Higgins Report "must and will be learned".

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She said while many people are pleased with assistance they have received from the gardaí, it wasn't just victims identified in the O'Higgins report that "haven't been served well".

She said: "In particular, victims of domestic violence felt we often failed to take their complaint seriously and that was not good enough.

"An Garda Síochána have prioritised a commitment to putting victims of crime at the heart of the garda service and a series of measures have been put in place to do just that."

Ms O'Sullivan said her apology is "only the beginning" and that gardaí are "now listening to and working with victims".

The Garda Commissioner made the remarks as she appeared before the Policing Authority amid the ongoing fallout of the investigation by Judge Kevin O'Higgins into allegations of Garda malpractice made by whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

The authority's chairperson, Josephine Feehily, outlined how they previously "expressed serious concern" at the findings of the O'Higgins investigation.

Ms O'Sullivan conceded the report "highlights failings from An Garda Síochána and inescapable lessons that must and will be learned".

She said: "It is clear that the victims were failed and that they did not get the service they were entitled to from An Garda Síochána. That was unacceptable and I would like to take this opportunity to once again apologise to those victims."

She said that a survey to be published later this week found some victims are "still not getting the level of information they expect and that they are entitled to".

She said the Protective Services Bureau was established last year to help the most vulnerable victims including complaints relating to child protection, human trafficking, domestic and sexual violence. These cases are being "thoroughly and sensitively investigated," she added.

On the issue of supporting whistleblowers, Ms O'Sullivan again said it's her belief that "dissent is not disloyalty and speaking up is important".

She added: "Have we got it right as of now? Absolutely no. The policy is right. It's certainly compliant with the legislation."

She said the force is working with Transparency International to make sure the mechanisms are in place for whistleblowers to come forward. All staff have been sent a copy of the Garda's protected disclosure policy and a manager has been appointed.

She asked by authority member Bob Collins what she thinks it says about an organisation when somebody feels such apprehension "that it is necessary secretly to record a conversation".

He was referring to an incident where Sgt McCabe taped a meeting with senior officers.

Ms O'Sullivan did not comment directly, but replied: "What we want to do is create a trusting environment where people can feel comfortable to come forward and raise issues. I don't want to pass commentary on any individual."

She said that the defining features of garda culture are "can-do attitude, our esprit de corps and a basic want and culture of doing the right thing".

Ms O'Sullivan said they have been accused of being "insular, defensive and resistant to change" but that she wants the force to become "open and collaborative". "I think we've started that," she said.

Meanwhile, Ms O'Sullivan said recent promotions to senior ranks have been portrayed as "duplicitous and disrespectful" of the Policing Authority which is to assume responsibility in this area. She rejected that characterisation, saying it was necessary to fill the posts.

Ms Feehily said there was no disagreement between the Garda and the authority on the matter and said it would have been "foolish" of them to oppose such appointments.

Irish Independent

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