Saturday 14 December 2019

Finding of '11 key deficiencies' points to need for overhaul

Noirin O'Sullivan has promised “a sea change in its culture and to renew and reinvigorate the organisation. Photo: Collins
Noirin O'Sullivan has promised “a sea change in its culture and to renew and reinvigorate the organisation. Photo: Collins

Tom Brady and Dearbhail McDonald

A MAJOR overhaul of garda procedures will be needed in light of the Guerin Report.

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan was last night studying 11 key deficiencies that pointed to disturbing system failures within the force.

She promised "a sea change in its culture and to renew and reinvigorate the organisation", after the report criticised the bail system, PULSE and the handling of victim impact statements.

Sean Guerin suggested these should now all be placed under the spotlight, alongside the setting up of a commission of inquiry to investigate the issues that remained unresolved arising out of the complaints made by Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Mr Guerin recommended a garda review of the effectiveness of its PULSE computer system as a means of recording and supervising compliance with conditions of bail, including the ability of PULSE to communicate automatically with the IT systems of the Courts Service on bail conditions.

The operation of the garda station bail system also required a close examination, he suggested. He called for a broad look at whether station bail was being properly applied as an alternative to bringing an accused person before a court for the determination of bail by a judge. He noted that law lecturer Tom O'Malley had already proposed "an empirical investigation of its operation", and he agreed with that.

Mr Guerin also indicated that the garda authorities should review the direction and guidance available to members of the force dealing with bail applications.

He highlighted the use of section 2A of the Bail Act, 1997, which allows the court to take into account and, where necessary, receive evidence or legal submissions concerning the seriousness of the offence and the sentence likely to be imposed if the person is a convicted.

The report also suggested that gardai should also be made aware of the arrangements that were in place to enable them to avail of that provision in appropriate cases.

A further review should focus on the direction and guidance available to gardai concerning the taking of victim impact statements and the conduct of summary prosecutions, to ensure that victim impact evidence is available to the district court in appropriate cases.

Arrangements for the provision of psychiatric reports to courts also required review, Mr Guerin said. The provision of such a report to a court, without a copy being made available to prosecuting gardai, gave rise to a possibility that a court might be misled on factual matters, on which the psychiatrist was dependant on the account of the patient, who could be more or less truthful.

Gardai should also examine the guidance and instructions given to members, particularly probationers, about their dealings with complainants, or injured parties. They need to avoid conduct that might be perceived by the complain- ant/injured party as intimidating because of the presence of a suspect.

Guidance should be given to gardai on the recording of notes during an investigation. All details, including the name of the member in charge of custody regulations, important events, and the reasons for them, must be recorded.

Garda authorities were told by Mr Guerin to look at procedures in relation to the formal production, dating and signature by members of statements of evidence. He also wants a review of the procedures for taking a statement amounting to the withdrawal of a complaint of criminal wrongdoing.

Other areas mentioned for review included disciplinary proceedings against a probationary garda and guidance on the recording of CCTV footage relevant to an incident.

Irish Independent

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