GSOC gets power to investigate garda chief in new law
THE watchdog Garda Ombudsman Commission will soon have power to investigate the garda commissioner - but only if the minister for justice agrees to it.
Frances Fitzgerald yesterday said the new draft law was an important step in fulfilling government promises on garda and justice system reform.
And the ability to investigate the Commissioner for the first time was being touted as a widening of GSOC's role in monitoring the force following recent controversies.
The new draft law published by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald stated it would bring the Garda Commissioner within the remit of GSOC for the first time.
However, the Bill and the explanatory memorandum clarified that any investigation of the garda chief was "subject" to the consent of the minister but in the case of any refusal to grant permission, a reason must be provided.
"I believe that this Bill will contribute in a meaningful way to the operation of GSOC so as to ensure that the wider public will have confidence in it and how it carries out its important tasks," said Ms Fitzgerald as she published a draft law to amend the 2005 Garda Siochana Act which first established the Ombudsman system.
It will also extend GSOC's investigative powers in relation to complaints about suspected criminal behaviour by gardai.
The measures will also aim to ensure that the Garda Siochana provides information sought by GSOC for an investigation as soon as is practicable.
It also provides GSOC with greater autonomy to examine the Garda Siochana's practices, policies and procedures.
Ms Fitzgerald stressed the vital role for the supervisory body in a new garda regime. "GSOC has a pivotal role to play when it comes to addressing complaints made against members of the Garda Siochana, she said.
Further changes in relation to GSOC will be considered in other legislation to establish a new over-arching Policing Authority, which is also promised to follow as soon as possible.
Ms Fitzgerald said that the GSOC bill will become law as quickly as possible and officials said they hoped it can be debated in the autumn. This raft of law changes follows two years of controversy which dogged the Justice Department and damaged the Government. The problems led to the controversial departure of the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. Justice Minister Alan Shatter was obliged to resign on May 7.