GSOC’s main area of responsibility is to deal with complaints concerning garda conduct. Each year, around 2,000 formal complaints are opened, containing around 5,000 allegations of garda misconduct (because there can be several allegations in one complaint).
The ‘Make a complaint’ section is dedicated to explaining the ways in which complaints can be investigated under the current legislation (the Garda Síochána Act 2005). Examples of real cases can also be read in that section.
There are lots of up-to-date statistics available about the number and nature of complaints received by GSOC in the ‘Publications’ section.
GSOC also conducts investigations into circumstances where it appears that the conduct of a garda, or gardai, may have resulted in death or serious harm to a person. Such incidents are referred to us by the Garda Siochana so that the public can be confident that there is independence in these investigations.
The Garda Ombudsman may investigate matters in relation to the conduct of gardaí, when it is in the public interest, even if a complaint has not been received.
The Ombudsman Commission may decide to open such an investigation itself, or may be requested to do so by the Policing Authority or by the Minister for Justice and Equality. Following amendments in 2016, the Policing Authority or the Minister may also refer a matter for the Commission to consider whether it should investigate it in the public interest.
These differ from the investigations described above in that they examine practices, policies and procedures of the Garda Síochána, rather than behaviour of any individuals. Often, such examinations are prompted by issues that come to notice during the course of investigations following complaints or referrals. Their purpose is to prevent complaints or other issues from arising.