Monday 19 March 2018

Garda Ombudsman director of investigation will not appear before Justice Committee today

Garda Siochana Ombudsman chairman Simon O'Brien
Garda Siochana Ombudsman chairman Simon O'Brien
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

The Garda Ombudsman director of investigations who condemned his organisation as not fit for purpose in a personal submission to the Justice Committee will not attend today's hearings.

Ray Leonard was due to appear before the Oireachtas committee this afternoon after submitting a lengthy statement on the legislation governing the Garda Ombudsman.

However, it has been confirmed Mr Leonard will not appear before the committee to discuss his claim that the organisation lacked "effective independence" and did not represent value for money for the taxpayer.

It is believed Mr Leonard did not think it would be appropriate to attend the hearings because his employer was also addressing the committee today.

Speaking at today's hearing Garda Siochana Ombudsman Siochana (GSOC) chairman Simon O'Brien said his organsiation was receiving far more cooperation from gardai following the recent spate of controversies.

Mr O'Brien said since the beginning of the year the agency experienced less difficulties obtaining information relevant to their investigation.

However, he said he is monitoring the process and will review the situation at the end of the year.

Mr O'Brien was appearing at an Oireachtas Justice Committee hearing to discuss potential changes to the Garda Siochana Act.

He called for legislation to be changed to allow GSOC investigate complaints made against the garda commissioner. 

His view was echoed by Transparency International Ireland, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and Amnesty International which also appeared before the committee.

Mr O'Brien also said the office of the garda confidential recipient should come under his organisation's control.

The office allows gardai anonymously make complaints about the conduct of their colleagues which are then relayed to Garda Headquarters.

However, Transparency International Ireland chief executive John Devitt did not agree and said their should be a separation between those who advise whistleblowers and those who investigate their complaints.

There were also calls for an agency to be established that would be responsible for investigating complaints relating to national security.

Mr O'Brien also insisted his office should have the power to investigate sexual assault complaints made against gardai.

Sinn Fein TD Padraig Mac Lochlainn asked the GSOC representatives for their opinion on a submission made to the committee by retired doctor Richard O'Flaherty, who was an on-call GP for garda stations during most of his career.

As revealed in today's Irish Independent, Dr O'Flaherty claimed in his submission that patients are not being adequately protected in garda stations.

He also has a complaint lodged with the Garda Ombudsman.

GSOC commissioner Carmel Foley said she had not seen Dr O'Flaherty's submission and said the organisation would not comment on open complaints.

Dr O'Flaherty will be appearing before the committee later this afternoon.

Separately, the Irish Traveller Movement called for an investigation into ethnic profiling by gardai on the PULSE system.

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