The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell, T.D. today published new Garda Whistleblower Regulations which will facilitate confidential reporting of corruption and malpractice in An Garda Siochana. The Regulations were approved by the Government and subsequently signed into law by the Tánaiste this week.
The Garda Síochána Confidential Reporting of Corruption or Malpractice Regulations 2007 are a key part of the overall reform of policing accountability. They allow for Gardaí or civilian employees of An Garda Síochána to report corruption or malpractice which comes to their attention. The Tánaiste welcomed the support of all four Garda representative bodies for the new Regulations. Discussions on the Regulations concluded last week in unanimous agreement.
Publishing the Regulations the Tánaiste said "The vast majority of Gardaí do their work honestly and conscientiously with a great spirit of public service. These Regulations introduce a new system that will allow such Gardaí to do their duty and expose wrongdoing without any fear of retribution. It will mean an end to the cover-up and collusion witnessed in cases in the past. No longer will misplaced loyalty to corrupt bullies be allowed to supplant the loyalty all Gardaí owe to the law, the people and An Garda Síochána.
I want to thank all the Garda Representative associations for their constructive engagement in discussions and for their expressed commitment to the new confidential reporting system."
In March 2006 the Morris Tribunal recommended that it should be possible for any serving member of An Garda Síochána to speak in confidence with a designated officer in Garda Headquarters should they have concerns about misconduct. These Regulations go well beyond the Tribunal's recommendation. Civilian employees as well as sworn members of the Garda Síochána will be able to make confidential reports to an independent person appointed by the Minister. The Regulations also provide for the appointment of internal reporting points within An Garda Síochána and provision is also made for the independent Garda Ombudsman Commission to be kept fully informed of all investigations into confidential reports of corruption and malpractice. The Garda Inspectorate will also be informed of reports relevant to its remit.
If the person making the report acts in good faith, and has reasonable grounds for believing that corruption or malpractice is afoot, they will enjoy the protections provided by the Regulations. A person who makes a false report will not enjoy those protections and action will be taken against anyone making a false report.
There are three principal protections for persons who, in good faith, report corruption and malpractice. Firstly, their identity will be protected and will only be revealed in very limited circumstances where necessary for tackling the corruption or malpractice; secondly they can not be disciplined for making a confidential report, and thirdly anyone who seeks to bully or intimidate them for making a report will be open to disciplinary action.
A confidential recipient or recipients who are independent of the Garda Síochána will be appointed by the Minister to receive reports. The Garda Commissioner may also appoint confidential recipients from among members and civilian employees of An Garda Síochána. They will pass the information concerning the corruption or malpractice to the Garda Commissioner for investigation. The confidential recipients may not reveal the identity of the person reporting the corruption unless knowledge of their identity is necessary for the proper examination of the report.
Provision for independent scrutiny and feedback on the confidential reporting system is provided in a number of ways:
- The person making the confidential report must be given feedback on any investigations or action taken on foot of his or her report.
- The Garda Ombudsman Commission must be informed by the Garda Commissioner of all confidential reports and subsequent investigations
- The Garda Síochána Inspectorate will be informed of reports relevant to its remit.
- Any reports alleging corruption or malpractice on the part of the Garda Commissioner or an acting Garda Commissioner must be passed to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
- The Garda Commissioner must report annually to the Minister on the operation of the confidential reporting system.
The Regulations set the broad framework within which the charter for confidential reporting will be set. The detailed mechanisms for reporting will be addressed in the Charter. The Charter will now be drawn up by the Commissioner in consultation with the Garda representative associations, civilian staff unions, the Garda Ombudsman Commission and the Garda Inspectorate and will be subject to the approval of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
26 April 2007