Friday 23 August 2019

Harris brings PSNI experience to the fore as he launches unit targeting corruption in Garda


Consulted: Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Consulted: Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has set out his stall with a new anti-corruption unit, which already has several files earmarked for its attention.

The commissioner, who has been in the role for nine months, has pledged the unit will be "up and running" before the end of the year.

Mr Harris said last week he believed it was appropriate that gardaí should gather the intelligence as it would be difficult for an external agency to be aware of "data flowing" outside the organisation.

"We have the experienced investigators, who know the organisation from the inside and also have access to the tools necessary to fully inquire into allegations of wrongdoing," he said.

The unit will have relatively few members initially and will focus on gathering intelligence on alleged wrongdoing in the force. In due course, it will be expanded to become more pro-active.

It was learned last night that the unit, to be based at Garda headquarters in the Phoenix Park, is likely to concentrate resources in its early stages on cases where crime victims, particularly women, allege they have been exploited by investigating gardaí.

Leader: Assistant Commissioner Dave Sheahan will lead the new unit investigating Garda corruption. Photo: Damien Eagers
Leader: Assistant Commissioner Dave Sheahan will lead the new unit investigating Garda corruption. Photo: Damien Eagers

The anti-corruption model to be used is based on studies carried out by the Garda authorities of similar units established in other police forces, including the PSNI and the London Met.

As a former senior officer in the PSNI, Mr Harris has wide experience of how its anti-corruption unit operates.

Allegations of the exploitation of vulnerable people, mainly women, have emerged in those forces and have been actively pursued.

The Garda unit will come under the control of the assistant commissioner in charge of governance and accountability, Dave Sheahan, who has drawn up a blueprint currently under examination by Mr Harris and other senior officers.

The unit will gather intelligence on a case and then hand over its file to be outsourced for investigation by members of the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI), which is currently in charge of inquiries involving internal affairs.

A senior officer said last night: "Down the road, it will be decided how much the unit should outsource its files to NBCI and how much it should be expanded to carry out its own investigations."

The setting up of the unit should not interfere with the work of the Garda Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) as it is intended that information will be shared between them.

Mr Harris said the Garda was serious about wrongdoing in the organisation and would make sure it was stamped out.

He added that while the anti-corruption unit would work out of Garda headquarters, it would also liaise closely with Gsoc and would not attempt to take over its role.

"There are all forms of wrongdoing and corruption that we will become aware of firstly," Mr Harris aid.

"We know our workforce best and I think we have a responsibility to make sure it is a healthy workforce in terms of its behaviour."

He said the corruption to be investigated would comprise any form of criminality or behaviour which was grossly outside the Garda discipline code, such as use of drugs and inappropriate associations with criminals or victims of crime.

Irish Independent

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