The Garda Ombudsman Annual Report 2015 (Report) highlights that 2015 was a busy year with key legislative changes.

Overview of complaints received

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (“GSOC”) received almost 2,000 complaints, with the majority of complaints relating to abuse of authority and neglect of duty.

A sample of the work carried out by GSOC can be seen from these two case studies:

  1. Breach of the Discipline Regulations

A complaint was made that an assault report had not been investigated by the Gardaí and that the investigating Garda did not respond to requests for updates from the complainant. A Garda Síochána Investigation Officer (GSIO) was appointed and investigated the matter. The GSIO found the Garda concerned to be in breach of the Discipline Regulations by failing to investigate the woman’s report of assault and by failing to record the incident on the Garda PULSE system. The sanction of a reduction in pay was recommended. The complainant was not satisfied with the outcome and requested a GSOC review. GSOC found that the investigation was thorough and proportionate, and that the appropriate outcome was reached.

  1. Delay in returning identification documents

A Garda sought proof of identification and age from a concert attendee. The Garda had concerns as to their authenticity and seized them. The complainant sought the return of her documents from several Garda stations but did not know the name or shoulder number of the Garda concerned. A complaint was made to GSOC as the documents had not been returned. Following enquiries the documents were located and returned, at which point, due to the resolution of the issue, the complaint was withdrawn.

Highlights from the Report

  1. Legislative changes

During the year, the Garda Síochána (Amendment) Act 2015 and the Garda Síochána (Policing Authority) Act 2015 were passed. Changes introduced by the Acts included bringing the Garda Commissioner within the remit of GSOC; extending the time limit for making a complaint to GSOC; and extending GSOC’s powers of investigation in relation to complaints involving suspected criminal behaviour.

  1. Referrals to the Director of Public Prosecutions

GSOC referred 19 files to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in 2015. The DPP directed prosecutions in two cases, one relating to a garda and one relating to a member of the public.

Eight cases, involving six Gardaí, came before the criminal courts in 2015. Of these, one case was withdrawn by the DPP and four trials were concluded, which resulted in 2 convictions, one case being struck out and 2 acquittals.

  1. Public Attitude

Research on public attitudes found that the public’s opinion on GSOC has improved, with the majority of adults surveyed saying that GSOC provides an important service and believed they would be treated fairly if they went to GSOC.

Summary

2015 was a busy year with the appointment of High Court judge Ms Justice Ring as Chairperson and the new legislation that was introduced. GSOC is hopeful that this marks the beginning of a phase of legislative change, which will enable it to fulfil its functions more effectively. In particular GSOC put suggested reforms before the Minister regarding an informal resolution process.

Click here for the link to the full report.