8: Complaints of discourtesy, resolved by informal resolution
A woman was collecting for charity, with a permit, in a town in Co. Offaly. She complained that she and her friend were shouted at by a garda in a passing patrol car, and that he continued to shout when he parked and when she approached his car. It appears that the garda believed they were collecting in an unsuitable location, but would not listen or provide advice on where to collect, when initially asked. He eventually stated that they could collect on the footpath.
Another man complained about the manner in which he was treated in a Co. Dublin garda station, when he called there to report an incident with his neighbour, who he said had assaulted and threatened him previously. He had been advised by the investigating garda at the time to report any future incidents to Gardaí, but he complained that, when he went to the station to do that, he was humiliated by the garda member who dealt with him in front of other people.
A woman complained that she rang a Co. Dublin Garda Station as a man was banging on her back door begging to be let in, because a large group of people were trying to hurt him. She was told a garda car would there shortly. The man became increasingly irate and she rang the station again to ask where the car was. She complained that the garda answering was aggressive in her response that they would have to wait and, when she said there was no need to speak in such a rude tone, the garda hung up.
In all of the above cases, the complaint was determined to be admissible and suitable to be dealt with in accordance with the Informal Resolution process, and both parties consented to this*.
In each case, several phone conversations took place between the GSOC Case Officer and each of the parties to the complaint. By the end of the process, each party better understood the other’s point of view and/or the circumstances at the time of the complaint. In some instances, though not necessarily in the sample cases above, the parties came to the understanding through the conversations that their words and/or actions may have been perceived by the other party in a different way to how they had meant them, and vice versa.
The Informal Resolution process does not aim to apply sanctions, but it brings incidents that can give rise to complaints to the attention of gardaí involved. Often the fact that the matter is brought to the attention of the garda by the Ombudsman is enough for the complainant to consider the matter resolved. On other occasions, the clarification of information which had been the subject of a misunderstanding by one or both parties leads to resolution of the issue.
A case is considered resolved when both parties agree that no further action is necessary.
If a resolution cannot be reached in this way, the case may be escalated to a formal investigation under the Disciplinary Regulations, or it may be discontinued if it is unlikely that such an investigation could practicably make a finding one way or the other.
* This type of resolution is provided for by s.90 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005