Tuesday 22 January 2019

New report recommends removing decision to prosecute from gardai

Stock photo: Niall Carson/PA
Stock photo: Niall Carson/PA
Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

A report into the Gardaí has recommended a sweep of significant changes to the organisation and how Ireland is policed including replacing the Ombudsman and the deployment of body cameras for gardai.

The report by the Commission on the Future of Policing, which is being launched in Dublin's City Hall this afternoon, examined every aspect of An Garda Síochána over the past year.

In total 50 key recommendations were made under ten principles which included internal governance, national security as well as Garda accountability and oversight.

The Commission was set up last year in response to concerns over the leadership and accountability of the gardaí.

A significant recommendation being made by the Commission is to supersede the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) with a new independent complaints body, where incidents are investigated rather than individual gardai.

This body, the Commission says, should also have the remit to investigate allegations of criminal behaviour against retired or resigned members.

It has also called for the urgent development of a national centre for intelligence collation and analysis which will be centrally within Government. The Strategic Threat Analysis Centre (STAC) should have a "ring fenced budget" to allow for the hiring of experts in various fields.

Two current oversight bodies, the Policing Authority and the Garda Inspectorate, should also be superseded by a new Policing and Community Safety Oversight Commission whose members should be appointed by Government.

The assignment of non-core duties should also be reassigned, including prison escorts to the Irish Prison Service and the removal of functions connected to GSOC.

"All prosecution decisions should be taken away from the police. The practice of police prosecuting cases in court should also cease," the Commission said.

The development of body worn cameras for gardai, a long-term demand of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), has also been recommended by the Commission.

Direct funding for a garda wellness programme has also been advised while in terms of oversight, and Independent Examiner should be appointed to review terrorism and serious crime legislation.

The report also calls for enhanced capabilities to counter cybersecurity threats and cybercrime.

Chairperson of the Communion of Future Policing, Kathleen O'Toole, said that the body had achieved an "ambitious but achievable programe for reform" of the gardai.

"I hope that everyone with any interest at all in policing will read this report," said Kathleen O'Toole. 

"It has been a great privilege to work with this Commission, and I believe that together we have been able to develop a comprehensive and ambitious but totally achievable programme of reform which will put Irish policing where it needs to be - not just up to date with developments in policing but right at the forefront. It will be hard work but it can be done and now is the time to do it”. 

The falsifying of breaths tests, wrongly classified homicide figures and the Charleton Tribunal are issues the organisation has faced in recent years.

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