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Head of Ireland’s Human Rights and Equality Commission Emily Logan wants GSOC's remit expanded. Photo: Frank McGrath

Head of Ireland’s Human Rights and Equality Commission Emily Logan wants GSOC's remit expanded. Photo: Frank McGrath

Head of Ireland’s Human Rights and Equality Commission Emily Logan wants GSOC's remit expanded. Photo: Frank McGrath

The garda watchdog should have more wide-ranging powers to investigate wrongdoing by members of the force, the rights commissioner has urged.

This would include GSOC - the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission - investigating gardai alleged to have used excessive force when carrying out their duties.

Under existing guidelines the independent body GSOC can only investigate cases involving "death or serious harm."

However the recently appointed head of Ireland's Human Rights and Equality Commission, Emily Logan, wants the GSOC remit significantly extended.

This would include allegations of sexual offences - or excessive use of force during garda operations - which as of now can be referred to the Garda Commissioner for investigation by members of the force.

A report by the Commission, presented to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, says steps should be taken to "remedy this deficit."

It maintains the range of investigations which GSOC can carry out should be "broadened substantially."

All complaints made to GSOC should come under its remit - unless these can be resolved through mediation.

Where necessary complaints - including those relating to disciplinary matters - should be subject to formal investigation, it urges.

The Commission is also concerned that GSOC has to rely on gardai to carry out investigations - instead of having independent investigators at its disposal.

It suggested the Ombudsman Commission, and the Garda Inspectorate, recruit a pool of "designated officers" - which would fill this gap.

The report says it should be a matter for GSOC alone to decide if it is appropriate to conduct an investigation into the Garda Commissioner.

GSOC should be designated as "a fully independent body'' which is fully accountable to the Oireachtas.

Ms Logan said the restrictions of the functions of the Ombudsman's office on grounds of national security are too broad, and limit its capacity to provide full oversight.

"For example, currently GSOC can be refused access to designated Garda Stations on national security grounds," she added

The report says that the policing structures of the state are a "core priority" for the Human Rights and Equality Commission. It is part of a submission on the Garda Siochana Bill 2013, which will overall broaden the scope of GSOC investigations.

Irish Independent