Garda’s anti-corruption unit ‘flies in face’ of principle that force shouldn’t investigate itself without scrutiny, says policing watchdog
In annual report, Garda Ombudsman raises concerns it was not consulted before specialist unit was launched
June 25 2021 03:25 PM
THE Garda Ombudsman has said the force’s anti-corruption unit “flies in the face” of the basic principle that gardaí should not investigate themselves without scrutiny.
The watchdog has also raised concerns that it was not consulted before the unit was launched and that investigations would be undermined without any independent oversight.
The comments were made in the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission’s (Gsoc) annual report and come just weeks after the Garda’s Anti-Corruption Unit (Gacu) formally launched its policies.
It said that the Gacu investigating potential criminal conduct by its colleagues, without independent oversight, “flies in the face of the spirit of the CoFPI report and the basic principle that gardaí should not be investigating themselves without scrutiny.”
The Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland’s (CoFPI) review found that all complaints should be routed through a watchdog. It also said that alleged breaches of policing performances should be investigated by an oversight body, and not the police.
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Gsoc’s annual report, launched today, shows that 1,955 complaints were received last year, an increase of 11pc during the pandemic compared to 2019.
Between March and December, a total of 295 complaints made to Gsoc mentioned Covid-19.
The most common among these related to the enforcement of travel restrictions, and interactions with gardaí at checkpoints.
Only 24 of these remain open, with the majority either deemed inadmissible or not proceeding past the ‘query’ stage due to lack of sufficient detail.
One garda was given a formal warning after a woman claimed he threatened to feed her cats to his dog at a Covid checkpoint.
The complainant, who runs an animal sanctuary, was stopped at a checkpoint, and told her journey was unnecessary as there were stores closer to her home.
According to Gsoc’s report the garda told her, “I have a dog, I can sort out your cats for you.”
The incident was later reported to local gardaí and in a phone call with the same officer, the woman claimed he would not give her his badge number and that he was discourteous.
Gsoc interviewed the garda who said the woman misrepresented the conversation and refuted that his comments implied “he would feed her cats to his dog”.
He was later found to have been discourteous and sanctioned with a warning.
Gsoc also revealed that a garda was fined for “compromising the security of the President” following a security breach at Áras an Uachtaráin.
A public interest investigation was launched into the incident on September 14, 2018, during which the person entered the Áras, berated President Michael D Higgins, and then drove out of the front gates unopposed 10 minutes later.
A senior garda found that an officer manning the gate, referred to as Garda B, had neglected his duty in failing to ascertain the nature and business of the intruder.
The report stated he let the person pass through because he believed they were a member of staff, and also let the same individual leave less than ten minutes later before being informed of the confrontation by the President’s aide.
“His failure to conduct a diligent enquiry into the vehicle and its occupant and failure to alert the main house at Áras an Uachtaráin of the vehicle compromised the safety of the President and Áras an Uachtaráin,” the Gsoc report stated.
It added that the garda was subject to a monetary sanction while Gsoc said two other members working earlier that day, a garda and a sergeant, should not face any disciplinary proceedings.
Last year the Garda Ombudsman launched 26 public interest investigations and received 19 protected disclosures.
It also received 43 referrals from gardaí where it appeared the conduct of a garda may have resulted in the death or serious harm to a person.