Thursday 29 September 2016

Superintendents poorly funded to deal with burden of complaints

Published 13/09/2016 | 02:30

'The main reason for the rising number of complaints is the burgeoning oversight industry, which has meant that superintendents are being held to account for the actions of their staff.' Photo: Collins
'The main reason for the rising number of complaints is the burgeoning oversight industry, which has meant that superintendents are being held to account for the actions of their staff.' Photo: Collins

Compared to those representing the lower ranks of the Garda force, the association that caters for superintendents has a poorly funded piggy bank.

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With only 166 members, the association earns relatively little from its annual subscriptions.

As a result of this, it cannot provide the necessary financial backing to ensure that superintendents can be certain of satisfactory legal support if they fall foul of either the garda authorities or the Garda Ombudsman Commission.

And the drain on the already inadequate funds will only get bigger - with the growing emphasis on oversight in the force guaranteeing that superintendents will face an increasing burden of disciplinary challenges in the future.

The Irish Independent discloses today that one in 10 superintendents have had to deal with internal garda inquiries over the past three years.

And the Ombudsman has dealt with 48 admissible complaints against members of that rank in 2015, and 79 the previous year.

They seem like large numbers but, put in context, they represent 2pc of all admissible allegations handled by the Ombudsman last year and 3pc in 2014.

The main reason for the rising number of complaints is the burgeoning oversight industry, which has meant that superintendents are being held to account for the actions of their staff.

What is more worrying for them, and for the media, is the apparently tougher line that is being taken against senior officers who have contact with journalists.

There are informal rules which govern that contact, and both sides are well aware of them.

But senior officers are now concerned that the line drawn between providing information to journalists to help ensure the accuracy of their stories and disclosing case details that could hamper an investigation has become very blurred in the past couple of years.

And the current trend of focusing on garda officers' phone records has led to the finger of suspicion being pointed at gardaí, even when the phone calls in question were related to their leisure time activities and had no connection at all to garda-related business.

In the meantime, the working relationship between gardaí and journalists, which is vital in a democracy, continues to be under threat.

Irish Independent

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