GSOC opened 557 criminal investigations into garda activity in 2021
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There were 557 criminal investigations opened by GSOC into conduct by Gardaí last year, an annual report from the policing watchdog revealed today.
The ombudsman’s report ‘GSOC in transition’ also showed there were 59 referrals from Gardaí 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’. This is a 40pc increase from 2020.
Of these 59 referrals, nine related to a death following garda contact, six related to deaths of people while in garda custody (including people hospitalised while in custody), five related to deaths of people during garda pursuits and two related to sexual offences.
Thirty-four of the referrals pertained to fatalities.
Of the 25 cases that were closed by GSOC in 2021 relating to the 59 investigations, no prosecutions were pursued by the DPP.
There were 2,189 complaints opened against Gardaí in 2021, which is a 12pc increase on 2020, and more than six in 10 of these complaints were deemed admissible by GSOC and investigations were sanctioned.
Convictions were secured in 2021 against gardaí for sexual assault, assault and theft across five criminal cases but forward by GSOC.
There were also 60 findings of disciplinary breaches by GSOC, resulting in the sanction of offending Gardaí by the Garda Commissioner, the report states.
Some of the disciplinary breaches included “failure to investigate allegations of abuse; discreditable conduct; failures in securing evidence; abuse of authority,”.
One investigation found the actions of garda members may have saved an injured party’s life or prevented further injury when he was discovered on the ground with head injuries.
The average time it takes to conclude a criminal investigation once opened by GSOC has risen to 311 days, the report shows.
This is more than a trebling of the 99 days it took in 2016 and almost double last year’s 162 days.
GSOC said there were multiple factors behind this increase, including the increase in the volume and complexity of cases and the impact of the pandemic on all aspects of GSOC’s investigative processes.
“However, another longer-term factor has been the question of resourcing,” the report said.
GSOC chair, Judge Rory MacCabe, said despite the “growing caseload” faced by GSOC, its work in 2021, “shines a positive light on the energy and commitment of the staff at all levels”.
“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.”