GSOC Annual Report 2016 is Published
The 2016 Annual Report of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has now been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.
The 2016 Annual Report contains case studies detailing the Garda Ombudsman’s work and reports on operations in the organisation’s four main areas of responsibility:
1. Complaints concerning garda conduct.
- In 2016, around 1800 complaints were received by the Garda Ombudsman, of which almost 1,100 were admissible.
- The most common matters complained of were abuse of authority and neglect of duty.
- Over 1700 complaints were closed in 2016 and their outcomes are listed and explained in the report.
2. To conduct independent investigations, following referral by the Garda Síochána, in circumstances where it appears that the conduct of a garda may have resulted in the death of, or serious harm to, a person.
- 51 referrals were received from the Garda Síochána in 2016, of which 12 referrals related to fatalities with a total of 13 fatalities reported to the Commission.
- The most common circumstances for such referrals were road policing and arrest.
- 55 such investigations (initiated in 2016 or in previous years) were closed during the year, half of which were able to be closed quite quickly, after initial independent examination showed no evidence of misbehaviour or criminality by a garda. In the remaining cases, full investigations were undertaken and the outcomes are listed and explained in the report.
3. To investigate matters in relation to the conduct of gardaí, when it is in the public interest, even if a complaint has not been received.
- 19 investigations in the public interest were opened in 2016 (seven more than in 2015). Seven were opened by decision of the Ombudsman Commission and twelve were on request of the Minister for Justice and Equality.
- Of the seven opened by the Commission itself, three were concluded during the year, with reports available on our website.
4. To examine any “practice, policy or procedure” of the Garda Síochána.
GSOC commenced two examinations into matters that had led to complaints over a number of years; governance of the application of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 and consideration of the safety and welfare of occupants of seized vehicles. The examinations are on-going and GSOC will report to the Minister with recommendations during 2017.
GSOC submitted 36 further recommendations to the Garda Síochána during 2016, relating to systemic issues that had come to light during investigations. These are listed in section 7 of the report. The Ombudsman Commission believes that highlighting systemic or management issues when they arise, and making recommendations to avoid the recurrence of similar incidents, is an important element of oversight. The Commission believes that there would be a benefit in giving this function a statutory basis and had conversations about this with the Minister for Justice and Equality in the course of 2016. It is something that we hope will be addressed by legislative change in 2017.
GSOC participated throughout 2016 on the Children First Implementation Committee (Justice Sector). Sections of the Children First Act 2015 had been commenced in 2015 and some further sections were commenced during 2016.
Directive 2012/29/EU10, the EU Victims Directive, came into effect at the end of 2015, giving, for the first time, a specified set of rights to victims of crime. GSOC participated, throughout 2016, in a working group coordinated by the Department of Justice and Equality to input into the drafting of the legislation to transpose the Directive into law.
The Garda Síochána (Policing Authority) Act 2015 provided for the establishment of the new Policing Authority, and this was established on 1 January 2016. The Commission and staff met with members of the Authority on various occasions during the year, to agree ways of working together.
In September 2016, the Ombudsman Commission met with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality, to make a submission to the Committee and to discuss the priorities of GSOC and the critical issues and challenges that the organisation faces. The Commission believes that 2017 – the year of GSOC’s tenth anniversary – needs to see fundamental legislative change, which will apply much of the learning made during the organisation’s first decade of operation and enable GSOC to fulfil its functions more effectively.
The Annual Report is an overview of the work of the Ombudsman Commission for the year 2016. It is hoped that some of the shortcomings in the current legislation (the Garda Siochána Act 2005) will be addressed in time for the 2017 report. The Ombudsman Commission would welcome a greater use of informal resolution (10% of investigations in 2016). The Ombudsman Commission would like the capacity in legislation, and with the accompanying necessary resources, to take back some of the cases sent to the gardaí for investigation (43% of investigations opened in 2016). The Ombudsman Commission looks forward to greater garda responsibility for dealing with complaints of a customer service nature (13% of the circumstances of complaints in 2016) thus meaning that members of the public might not have to avail of the services of GSOC in the first instance.
The Ombudsman Commission sees such changes as increasing the confidence of the public not only in GSOC but also in the Garda Síochána. 2017 will mark the end of the first decade of GSOC’s work and the start of a new path to a second decade. New legislation will make that path smoother for all concerned.
Communications and Research
Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission