Friday 21 October 2016

Garda 'progress' on key reforms to face scrutiny

Published 25/09/2016 | 02:30

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan is to appear before the new Policing Authority on Thursday to outline reforms in the force following the series of damning reports.

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The authority, headed by former Revenue Commissioner Josephine Feehily, is expected to ask for 'evidence of implementation of recommendations', including the most serious indictment in recent years over An Garda Siochana's handling of rape investigations.

Recent cases, including one in which a teenage boy was accused of raping two girls aged five and seven but was never charged after his file lay untouched for two years, have raised major concerns among victims and their families.

The Sunday Independent has spoken to friends and relatives of two adult female rape victims who had to wait for over four years for their cases to come to court.

The independent police watchdog body, the Garda Inspectorate, reported in 2014 that untrained gardai were regularly left in charge of rape investigations. The inspectorate report, Crime Investigation, recommended that An Garda Siochana set up specialist trained units along the lines of other police forces, including the PSNI which has rape investigation units in each of its divisions.

Asked what changes have been implemented since the inspectorate report - which also found that some rape cases were 're-categorised' as lesser offences - the Garda Press Office could not say what changes have been actually implemented.

Garda sources say the force was to establish nine specialist rape investigation units around the country but this number has been reduced to three and these are not functional yet.

The sources say garda management has introduced a new system of detective 'training' under which gardai are deemed to be 'detectives' after a series of short courses, the longest of which is known as 'Level 4' and requires only three weeks' study in Templemore Garda College.

The Policing Authority at its meetings with the Commissioner earlier this year asked how many gardai had come forward as 'whistleblowers' following what was to have been the establishment of a system to deal with complaints about corruption or inefficiency.

It is understood only four gardai out of nearly 13,000 have availed of this complaints system.

The authority is also expected to be asked to fill a further number of senior positions in the force and may be asked to 'extend' the compulsory retirement age of 60 in the case of a number of senior officers. The age 60 cut-off was unsuccessfully challenged in the courts by former Assistant Commissioner Martin Donnellan.

Sunday Independent

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