More than 550 criminal investigations into Garda conduct, watchdog says

Criminal investigations into gardaí conduct rose to 557 last year, according to the latest report from the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

The report also shows that gardaí referrals to business Gsoc where the conduct of a garda on duty could have resulted in death or serious injury more than doubled – from 24 in 2017 to 59 last year.

Complaints against the gardaí are also at their highest level in five years, according to the Gsoc.

Although between 32% and 39% of all complaints are deemed inadmissible and not investigated, the number of admissible complaints has increased from 1,158 in 2019 to 1,335 in 2021.

The Gsoc also found 60 breaches of discipline last year by members of An Garda Síochána, which resulted in the imposition of sanctions by the Commissioner of the Garda.

Some five criminal cases have gone to court in 2021, involving charges of sexual assault, assault and theft.

The year also saw the Director of Public Prosecutions order the prosecution of 13 counts stemming from Gsoc investigations, involving sexual offences, assault, traffic violations and providing false information. .

The report, released on Thursday morning, shows that while there were 4,459 allegations contained in all complaints in 2017, the number fell to 3,760 last year.

Examples of complaints against the gardaí included a complaint in which a member of the Garda failed to properly investigate allegations of childhood sexual abuse.

This is despite the fact that gardaí has ​​received a full report on allegations of abuse by another police force.

The delay in dealing with the abuse allegations had the effect of leaving the alleged abuser, according to Gsoc, “to remain a risk to children”.

Another example of a complaint involved a member of the public who alleged that following an altercation over face masks in a supermarket, a member of the Garda approached him 20 minutes later and arrested him without explanation , pinning him “aggressively” against his patrol car before handcuffing him. .

However, after reviewing CCTV of the incident, the footage “showed no misconduct on the part of the garda member during the arrest” and “there was no evidence to support the allegations”.

Increasing workload

Gsoc chairman Justice Rory MacCabe said while the proposed legislative reform to create a new, more powerful watchdog is welcome, it will need to be adequately resourced.

He warned that whoever puts in place the Gsoc’s successor will have to “commit adequate resources and personnel to ensure that an expanded oversight mandate can be fulfilled in practice”.

Generally speaking on the report he said: “The year 2021 has seen Gsoc deliver on our statutory mandate, which in the context of the increasing workload, significant personnel changes and ongoing challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, shines a positive light on the energy and commitment of staff at all levels.

The changes proposed in the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill, if implemented, would create a new Garda Ombudsman with significantly improved functions and independence.

“These proposals provide a positive platform from which to fill a clearly defined and long-standing gap in the accountability infrastructure of the police service in Ireland.

“For the reform to achieve its objectives, it is crucial that adequate resources, personnel, expertise and cooperation are secured.”

Mark M. Gagnon