From top: Oireachtas justice committee this morning; GSOC chair Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring; RTÉ Crime Correspondent Paul Reynolds
RTÉ’s Crime Correspondent Paul Reynolds – who is at the Association of Garda Superintendents annual conference in Naas, Co Kildare today – reported on the group’s response to comments made by the chair of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring at a meeting of the Oireachtas justice committee this morning.
Ms Justice Ring told the meeting:
“GSOC has noted in it submission to this committee that we have become aware, along with the public, of allegations of Garda wrongdoing through the media.
“We are aware that the gardai continue to conduct criminal investigations of its own members without the knowledge or the participation of GSOC and we find that troubling.”
“This practice runs the risk of allegations of cover-up or bias or corruption when it becomes known that such investigations had been carried out internally.
“It runs the risk that fair and independent investigations are not seen as such by the public because they were not notified outside the organisation.
“Most importantly they run the risk of undermining public trust significantly if such internal investigations go wrong.”
Ms Justice Ring also told the committee that GSOC has set up a separate unit to deal with protected disclosures and has increased its staff for this purpose.
She said GSOC received 24 new protected disclosures from gardai in 2018 and “they have continued in 2019”.
The committee heard 13 cases have been discontinued while GSOC has 36 lives cases, some going back more than four years, with none yielding prosecution or recommendation of disciplinary action.
Following this, Mr Reynolds reported that the President of the Association of Garda Superintendents Noel Cunningham has claimed Ms Justice Ring’s comments “don’t make sense”.
During his report, Mr Reynolds said:
“They can’t see how or why someone could or would want to cover up the fact of such an investigation. And therefore they want clarity.”
“There’s no statutory obligation on the gardai to inform the Garda Ombudsman if they are carrying out criminal investigations into other members, suspected criminal activity carried out by other members of the gardai. They’re not statutorily obliged to do that.”
Mr Reynolds also raised Ms Justice Ring’s comments about protected disclosures.
“What the superintendents are saying is that they think the protected disclosures system needs to be looked at, particularly in relation to vexatious complaints.
“That while, of course people should be allowed make protected disclosures, but there is a need for sanctions or for a system whereby sanctions can be imposed on people who make vexatious complaints.”
“And if you look at those figures, and this was pointed out by Sinn Féin’s Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire – he said it was quite poor and it was disappointing that whereby GSOC had 36 of these cases on their books they still hadn’t been a sanction against one member of the gardai and the Superintendents here raising the possibility that surely there must be some, there must be a possibility of some vexatious complaints in there.”
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