GSOC publishes its 2021 Annual Report – GSOC in Transition
GSOC’s 2021 Annual Report documents a sustained increase in caseload, as well as the commencement of its preparatory work for the oversight body’s expected ‘Transition’ to a reformed and expanded mandate, under forthcoming Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill.
Thursday, 19 May 2022
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) published its 2021 Annual Report, GSOC in Transition, today (Thursday, 19 May 2022). The report documents a sustained increase in the policing oversight body’s caseload.
The report also looks ahead to the expected expansion of GSOC’s mandate, as proposed in the general scheme of the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill, published in April 2021. GSOC welcomes these proposed reforms as addressing “a clearly defined and long-signalled gap in Ireland’s policing accountability infrastructure”, while emphasising the importance of guaranteeing adequate resourcing and enhanced cooperation, if the reformed body is to fulfil its new mandate properly.
GSOC in Transition provides an overview of our work in 2021, including statistics on the number of complaints received, the number of investigations undertaken, and outcomes reached. The year saw an increase of 12% in the volume of complaints received from the public, and an increase of 40% in referrals made to it by An Garda Síochána following incidents involving death or serious harm. There was also a significant increase – 21% – in the volume of cases closed in 2021. In 2021, GSOC made 60 findings of a breach of discipline by members of An Garda Síochána, resulting in the imposition of sanctions by the Garda Commissioner. Five criminal cases were decided in court in 2021, involving charges of sexual assault, assault and theft. The year also saw the Director of Public Prosecutions direct the prosecution of 13 charges arising from GSOC investigations, involving sexual offences, assault, breaches of the Road Traffic Acts and the provision of false information.
Speaking today on the publication of the report, GSOC Chair, Judge Rory MacCabe, said:
“2021 saw GSOC deliver on our statutory mandate, which, in the context of the growing caseload, significant staff changes and ongoing challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, shines a positive light on the energy and commitment of the staff at all levels.
The Report also looks to GSOC’s future. The sweeping changes proposed in the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill, if implemented, create a new Garda Ombudsman with significantly enhanced functions and independence. These proposals are a positive platform from which a clearly defined and long-signalled gap in Ireland’s policing accountability infrastructure will be addressed. If reform is to achieve its aims, it is crucial that adequate resources, staffing, expertise and cooperation are guaranteed.
It is my priority and that of my Commission colleagues, to build on the groundwork done in 2021 so that the transition of GSOC to the new role that the Oireachtas delivers will be seamless.”
NOTES TO EDITOR
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) is an independent statutory agency set up in 2007 under the Garda Síochána Act 2005.
Its function is to deal with complaints of misconduct by members of An Garda Síochána in an efficient, effective and fair manner.
The Ombudsman Commission consists of three members. Current members are:
- Justice Rory MacCabe, Chairperson, appointed January 2022. [The term of the previous Chairperson, Ms. Justice Mary Ellen Ring, ended on 11 December 2021]
- Hugh Hume, appointed February 2021
- Emily Logan, appointed February 2021
Under Section 80 of the Act, GSOC is required to furnish an annual report to the Minister for Justice. The 2021 Annual Report was furnished to the Minister on 31 March 2022, and has been published today (Thursday, 19 May 2022).
It is available in both English and Irish at the links below. Irish press release available HERE.
Key facts and figures from the 2021 GSOC Annual Report
2021 in numbers
- 852 cases on-hand on 1 January 2021
- 2,189 complaints opened, containing 3,760 allegations (representing a 12% increase)
- 61% of complaints ruled admissible
- 557 criminal and 752 non-criminal investigations opened
- 59 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’ (representing a 40% increase). For a breakdown of the circumstances of these referrals, see p56;
- 2,078 complaints closed (representing a 21% increase);
- 13 public interest investigations opened (these are investigations undertaken in the absence of a complaint or referral from the Garda Commissioner);
- 20 protected disclosures received;
- 21 files sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions
- 13 prosecutions directed by DPP arising from 10 of the files submitted. The DPP directed no prosecution in 11 cases.
- 5 criminal cases decided in court in 2021, with convictions secured for sexual assault, assault and theft.
- 60 findings of disciplinary breaches made by GSOC, resulting in the sanction of offending Gardaí by the Garda Commissioner.
Case studies and Systemic Recommendations
The 2021 Annual Report contains a range of case studies arising from its investigative work in 2021, as well as itemising the various recommendations made to An Garda Síochána where issues of a systemic nature were uncovered in the course of GSOC’s investigations. Case studies from GSOC’s Local Intervention initiative are also provided. See pages 48-53, 65, 68-69 and 71-73. These include examples of:
- Disciplinary breaches including: failure to investigate allegations of abuse; discreditable conduct; failures in securing evidence; abuse of authority;
- Criminal charges and sentences including for sexual assault, domestic abuse, assault and theft
- The finding by GSOC in one investigation that the actions of Garda Members may have saved the injured party’s life or prevented further injury
- The satisfactory resolution of service-level complaints via GSOC’s local intervention initiative, in cooperation with designated Garda inspectors
- The issue to the Garda Commissioner of systemic recommendations on Garda policy and practice, including in relation to: recordkeeping on vehicle use; health and safety in custody areas; assisting members of the public seeking shelter in Garda stations; and assisting persons at risk of suicide.
GSOC’s Preparations in 2021 for ‘Transition’
The scheme of the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill
The heads of the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill were published in April 2021 and are available HERE.
The broad-ranging draft legislation seeks to address some of the key recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing, amongst which was the expansion of the powers, independence and remit of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.
GSOC published observations on the scheme of the bill in December 2021, available on GSOC’s website HERE. GSOC’s observations broadly welcome the draft legislation’s proposals for the expansion and restructuring of its investigatory powers, but stress the importance of independence, adequate resourcing and Garda cooperation.
In anticipation of these reforms, in 2021 GSOC established a cross organisational transition project group to ensure that the organisation builds its capacity to undertake the role envisaged in the draft legislation. This includes the commencement of a thorough structural review and business analysis to inform the business, staffing and resourcing demands of the reformed organisation. This review will be completed in 2022. Preparation for transition is also a core priority of GSOC’s Statement of Strategy 2021-2023, which was published in March 2021.