GSOC publishes its 2020 Annual Report
The 2020 Annual Report of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has been published today.
2020 was a remarkable year, with the COVID-19 pandemic posing challenges for GSOC and its staff. As the providers of an essential service, GSOC’s priority was to ensure continuity in the taking and investigation of complaints while at the same time safeguarding the health and welfare of GSOC staff, members of the public, Gardaí and all other people who interact with GSOC. Our staff have been totally dedicated to continuing their work and have made the continued provision of our statutory functions possible throughout these challenging times.
The report provides an overview of the work of GSOC and includes statistics on the number of complaints received and closed and the number of investigations undertaken. It also includes some case studies and information about various types of investigations undertaken by GSOC, which give a flavour of our work.
Key statistics in the 2020 Annual Report include:
- 1,955 complaints opened;
- 3,089 allegations contained in those complaints;
- 1,724 complaints closed;
- 43 referrals from the Garda Síochána of matters where it appeared ‘the conduct of a member of the Garda Síochána may have resulted in the death of or serious harm to a person’
- 26 public interest investigations were opened (these are investigations undertaken in the absence of a complaint or a referral from the Garda Commissioner);
- 19 protected disclosures were received; and
- 572 criminal investigations were opened.
Of note also is the second full year of the Local Intervention (LI) initiative (described in Section 4 of the report) which was initiated on a pilot basis in 2018 and rolled out nationwide in 2019. The local intervention process is aimed at resolving certain service-level types of complaints against members of the Garda Síochána—such as incivility, poor service, and lack of response to communications—at a local level without the need for the matter to enter a formal complaints process. This allows people with less serious complaints to have them addressed in a timely and mutually acceptable manner. GSOC is pleased to note a 10 percent increase in the number of complaints referred to local intervention, and a 50 percent increase in the number resolved or closed having been referred for LI. GSOC extends our compliments to members of the Garda Síochána involved in the LI process and the members of the public in continuing to work together to ensure the success of LI throughout 2020 despite the challenges COVID-19 presented.
As noted above throughout 2020 GSOC received 43 referrals from the Garda Commissioner under section 102 (1) of the Act. These referrals arise where the conduct of a member of the Garda Síochána may have resulted in the death of, or serious harm to, a person or persons. Not all of these referrals lead to an investigation as the contact with the Garda Síochána may turn out not to have been immediate to the incident in question. Where death is involved, GSOC has regard not only to the incident concerned but also the needs of family members, and a number of GSOC staff act as Family Liaison Officers to assist throughout the investigation. At year’s end, on 30 December 2020, a young man, George Nkencho, died after being shot by a member of the Garda Síochána. The death was referred by the Garda Síochána to GSOC in accordance with section 102 of the Act, and a GSOC investigation into the circumstances of the shooting was immediately commenced. This investigation is continuing at the time of writing.
The Annual Report also includes case studies which demonstrate the work that GSOC does:
- A referral was received by GSOC following a fatal road traffic collision involving an off duty garda. The DPP directed a prosecution following a GSOC criminal investigation. A two year suspended sentence imposed by the Judge was appealed by the DPP. The Court of Appeal quashed the sentence and imposed a term of imprisonment. (Full case study details on page 42).
- A public interest investigation was initiated by GSOC following media reports a security breach had occurred at Áras an Uachtaráin, the residence of the President. A non-criminal investigation was initiated. A file was sent to the Garda Commissioner and the garda was found to have breached the discipline regulations in the Garda Síochána. (Full case study details on page 33/34).
- A garda was ordered by a court to complete an anger-management course and to write a letter of apology to a young man, following an allegation of assault, which was referred to GSOC by a Chief Superintendent. A criminal investigation was commenced and a file was sent to the DPP who directed a prosecution. (Full case study details on page 40/41).
- A criminal investigation was initiated by GSOC investigators following receipt of a complaint alleging the unauthorised sharing of personal information by a garda. A file was sent to the DPP who directed a prosecution. A guilty plea was accepted by the court on full facts. (Full case studies details on page 41/42).
As we publish this report, we note the publication of the General Scheme of the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill which will give legislative effect to the recommendations of the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. GSOC anticipates that this legislation will have a significant impact on GSOC’s future functions and on the powers and resources which it requires to carry out its remit. In preparation for the changes that new legislation will bring, GSOC is undertaking a transformation programme to ensure that the organisation builds its capacity to undertake the role envisaged in the draft legislation. These preparations, together with the work that we are undertaking to provide our services in a professional manner and to a high standard on an ongoing basis, are set out in our Statement of Strategy 2021-23.
The terms of two GSOC Commissioners ended in December 2020. Dr. Kieran FitzGerald served two terms, a total of nine years and Mr Patrick Sullivan served one term as GSOC Commissioners and we would like to acknowledge their contributions and the expertise that they brought. The process of selecting two new Commissioners was at an advanced stage by the end of 2020, and Ms Emily Logan and Mr Hugh Hume were appointed as Commissioners by the President of Ireland in February 2021.