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Commissioner's response to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission 2012 Report

The Garda Commissioner today acknowledged and welcomed the 2012 Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission Annual Report. Speaking at Garda Headquarters he remarked:

"Firstly, I would like to extend my sympathies to members of the Commission for the loss of two of their valued colleagues – SIO Sara Robinson and Director of Operations Paul Bushini.

The importance of having an independent and effective investigative body to ensure that Irish citizens continue to have trust in An Garda Síochána cannot be overstated. The ongoing respect shown to members of the force could be seen in the general public’s reaction to the callous murder of our colleague Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe in the course of his duty in Dundalk on the 25th January.

This respect and trust from communities nationwide is something we work hard at earning, and are intent on keeping. I see the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission as playing a valuable role in this.”

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has highlighted that there has been a significant reduction in the number of incidents referred to it in accordance with section 102(1) of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005.

The Commissioner has delegated this function to Officers of Superintendent Rank. The Commissioner is satisfied that Superintendents are properly discharging their statutory responsibility in this regard. The Garda Commissioner’s Office is not aware of any incident that ought to have been referred to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission in accordance with Section 102(1).

It is also pleasing to note that the number of complaints received by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission from members of the public has reduced from 2,275 in 2011 to 2,089 in 2012. The Commissioner and his management team are constantly engaging in management efforts to address the issues of complaints and discipline and to promote higher standards of behaviour. The Commissioner has facilitated the attendance of Officers from the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission to provide briefings on all promotion courses.

Delays by An Garda Síochána in conducting investigations under Section 94 of the Act

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission referred 597 admitted complaints to An Garda Síochána for investigation in accordance with Section 94 of the Act during 2012. While it is accepted that there is an agreed time limit of 12 weeks in the Protocols to finalise these investigations, both organisations have accepted it is usually not possible to adhere to this timeline. In the review of the Protocols between both Agencies it is intended that this time limit be extended to a more realistic 16 weeks in respect of Unsupervised Investigations and 24 weeks in the case of Supervised Investigations.

In relation to the review of the memorandum of understanding and protocols between the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and An Garda Síochána, I note that the second page of the memorandum signed in August 2007 by the Honourable Mr Justice Kevin Haugh, then Chairman of Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, and Mr Noel Conroy, then Garda Commissioner had the following clearly set out: "It is recognised by both organisations that this MOU, protocols and matters outlined are not static, immutable documents. They may be reviewed and revised at any time by agreement by GSOC and AGS (levels 2 and 3 as set out in Chapter 18).” Both organisations are quite properly engaged in the process of conducting a review of the protocols for the purpose of revising them to the mutual benefit of both organisations and the community we serve.

A study of the time and effort expended by Garda Superintendents and Inspectors carrying out investigations on behalf of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission in 2009 indicated on average a typical complaint investigation took 78 hours and cost An Garda Síochána approximately €2,200 per investigation. So if we take a figure of 600 investigations carried out by An Garda Síochána for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission in 2012 this represents a cost of €1,320,000 to An Garda Síochána.

A number of strategies have been put in place in respect of investigations which have exceeded the prescribed timelines. All Section 94 investigations are monitored by Internal Affairs. A computerised system ‘RAPID’ was created to track these investigations and identify matters which were exceeding the timelines.

In addition the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission provides An Garda Síochána with a list of the 20 oldest Section 94 investigations on a six (6) weekly basis. Internal Affairs engages with the respective Appointing and Investigating Officers in an attempt to bring these matters to a conclusion. Assistant Commissioner Human Resource Management has also organised a number of case conferences with Appointing and Investigating Officers in respect of these investigations.

I have no doubt that continued efforts in this regard will reduce the delays in such investigations being completed.

Delays due to information exchange

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has identified an issue regarding delay in the provision of information following a request. The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has highlighted that in the present Protocols there is an agreement that when information is requested it will be supplied within 30 days and that there were no caveats to this agreement.

It must be accepted that there have been delays on behalf of An Garda Síochána in respect of some such requests for information. In order to ensure that such requests for information are serviced in a timely manner the Garda Commissioner has established a new process in 2012. The process was developed with the agreement of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission whereby all requests for information are now made through a dedicated office under the control of Assistant Commissioner Human Resource Management. To facilitate this process a dedicated Garda email address was established by An Garda Síochána to receive and progress all such requests in a timely manner.

With effect from September, 2012 the dedicated email system became fully operational to ensure that all queries from the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission in respect of investigations being conducted by GSOC under Section 98 of the Act were answered in a timely fashion. HQ Directive 89/12 has reference. To date, 219 Requests for Information or Documentation have been received via email and 192 have been fully complied with, and the remainder are being closely monitored and supervised. Management in Internal Affairs review the operation of the system on a weekly basis and report to Assistant Commissioner Human Resource Management.

In addition the Garda Commissioner has established a dedicated office (GSOC Liaison Office) to process and monitor all such requests. This is a significant investment of resources by the Commissioner at a time when numbers of personnel are reducing.

Review of the Protocols

Following an initial meeting with Mr. Ray Leonard, acting Director of Operations, Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission on Tuesday, 12th March, 2013, meetings have been taking place on a fortnightly basis in order to progress matters at a reasonable pace. Six such meetings have taken place since that date. The teams from both the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and An Garda Síochána are endeavouring to progress the completion of the revised Protocols in a manner that is acceptable to both organisations. Substantial progress has been made towards reaching agreement.