The Tanaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell, has signed new Discipline Regulations for An Garda Siochana following their approval by the Government. The Regulations will come into effect on 1 June 2007.
Announcing the details of the new Regulations, the Tanaiste referred to the Government's response to the Third, Fourth and Fifth Reports of the Morris Tribunal into Garda activities in Donegal, when the Government acknowledged and accepted the views of the Tribunal that the current disciplinary regulations for the force needed to be replaced by a new, less complex approach which would be swift and fair with a simple appeal process.
The Tanaiste said: "The main problem identified by the Tribunal was the overlay of legal formalism and procedures which could be used to delay and frustrate simple, straightforward disciplinary investigations. These new Regulations take account of the Tribunal's recommendations and trenchant criticisms of the existing rules drawn up in 1989. They follow well-established principles in the public sector and beyond. They are more streamlined and stripped of the complexities of administration and legal formalism associated with the current discipline regime which they will completely replace."
The Tanaiste said that the new Regulations coincide with the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission opening its doors to the public on 9 May. In this regard, he referred to the 2006 report of the Garda Siochana Act Implementation Group, chaired by Senator Maurice Hayes, which acknowledged the need for changes to the existing discipline regulations to coincide with the commencement of investigations into complaints by the Ombudsman Commission and to bring them into line with modern human resource management.
In recognition of the fundamental changes proposed to the existing Regulations, additional time was allowed for discussions with the Garda Representative Associations under the Garda Siochana Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme. The Tanaiste said: "There have been extensive discussions and engagement with the Garda Associations in recent weeks and the new regulations represent a fair and effective response to dealing with the shortcomings identified by the Morris Tribunal under the current discipline arrangements."
7 May 2007
Notes for Editors
The legal structure underpinning the new Regulations is contained in section 123 of the Garda Siochana Act. Regard has also been had to the new Disciplinary Code drawn up for the Civil Service which has been in operation since 4 July, 2006. In summary, the new Regulations provide for different procedures to be followed in cases of minor, less serious breaches and serious breaches of discipline respectively, as follows:
- informal resolution at local level between the member concerned and his or her immediate supervisor in the case of minor breaches of discipline. Possible sanctions in respect of breaches of discipline in this category include advice, caution or warning (Regulation 10);
- formal interview by a deciding officer (a member not below the rank of superintendent) with the member concerned with the possibility of a final internal review by an appointing officer (a member not below the rank of chief superintendent) in less serious cases. Possible sanctions in respect of breaches of discipline in this category include reduction in pay not exceeding 2 weeks' pay, reprimand, warning, caution, or advice (see Regulations 14 to 21); and
- formal investigation and inquiry by a Board composed of 3 persons appointed by the Commissioner in the case of serious breaches of discipline. The Presiding Officer of the Board will be selected from a Panel nominated by the Minister each of whom must be a judge of the District Court, or a practising barrister or solicitor with not less than 10 years experience. This arrangement is new. Under the existing discipline regulations, presiding officers of inquiry boards have always been at Chief Superintendent rank. The other members of the Board will be Garda Members, one not below Chief Superintendent rank and the other not below Superintendent rank. Possible sanctions in respect of breaches of discipline in this category include dismissal, requirement to resign, a reduction in rank or reduction in pay not exceeding 4 weeks' pay. In these cases, recourse may be had by the member concerned to an Appeal Board consisting of 3 persons, one of whom may be the Commissioner, a Deputy Commissioner, or an Assistant Commissioner; another will be a member of a representative association, or another member selected by the Commissioner where the member concerned is not a member of a representative association; the Chairman will be appointed by the Commissioner from a panel nominated by the Minister, each of whom must be a judge of the District Court, or a practising barrister or solicitor with not less than 10 years experience (Regulations 22 to 38). Decisions of the Appeal Board are final.
Other significant features:
- Provision for disciplinary proceedings to be taken against a member notwithstanding criminal proceedings having already been taken, or the possibility of future criminal proceedings being taken. The aim here, in line with existing case law in this area, is to reduce as far as possible instances where everything under the discipline regulations, even in cases where very serious breaches of discipline are involved, is put on hold while criminal proceedings are brought to a conclusion (Regulation 8);
- Explicit provision for the standard of proof which will be 'on the balance of probabilities' (Regulation 9);
- Legal representation at the member's own expense to be allowed in cases involving serious breaches of discipline only before a board of inquiry (Regulation 27(4)(a) or an Appeal Board (Regulation 36(2)(a));
- Suspension of a member in the interests of the Garda Siochana (Regulation 7) and summary dismissal of a member considered unfit for retention in the Garda Siochana (Regulation 38) - both provisions being in addition to suspension/dismissal provisions in the Garda Siochana Act 2005.