The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr Michael McDowell, T.D., today published the report of the Garda Síochána Act Implementation Review Group.
Welcoming the report, the Minister said that he had set up the Group, under the chairmanship of Senator Maurice Hayes, to review and make recommendations in relation to the preparations for the implementation of the provisions of the Garda Síochána Act 2005.
Publishing the report the Minister said, "The full implementation of the Garda Síochána Act is a key priority of mine. The Review Group's report shows that huge progress has been made on this front and I welcome their endorsement for the work that is being carried out by my Department in advancing its implementation. This process continues at pace and I am determined that the remaining provisions of the Act are implemented as soon as possible.
The passing of the Act and its speedy implementation which is being underpinned by unprecedented financial resources for An Garda Síochána proves that there can be no doubt that this Government is committed to the process of Garda reform".
In particular the Group had been asked to review preparations for the timely implementation of the Act with particular reference to the:
- establishment of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission;
- establishment of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate;
- development of guidelines to enable the establishment Joint Policing Committees.
The report states that on a number of important provisions in the Act, including the above, substantial and satisfactory progress had been made. In particular the Group noted the following:
Preparations for the formal appointment of the Ombudsman Commission are well in train, and we are fully confident that after the recruitment and training of appropriate staff, the Office will be fully open for business by the start of 2007.
The search is under way to recruit a Chief Inspector, after which the two other Inspectors will be recruited. Suitable preparations have been made for this important office to become operative by the summer of 2006.
Revised Code of Discipline
The Disciplinary Code is under revision and a Code of Ethics based on Human Rights principles is being prepared. After due consultation, both should be in place well before the Ombudsman Commission opens for business.
Joint Policing Committees
Guidelines for the Joint Policing Committees have been drafted. We have recommended that there should be up to 12 Pilot Schemes in a variety of settings before the system is rolled out nationwide in about a year's time. These pilots should be in place well before the summer of 2006.
The transfer of Accounting Officer responsibilities to the Garda Commissioner is on schedule and will take place on 1 July 2006; responsibility for procurement will transfer to the Garda Commissioner at the same time.
Civilian staff at present employed by the Department will transfer to Garda management in October 2006, after the necessary consultations have been completed.
The Group also added some general comments on issues relating to management, which are relevant to the success of the process of change which has been initiated by the Garda Síochána Act 2005. These are included in Part III of the Report. The Minister is considering these additional comments.
The Minister added that since he received the report the Dáil and Seanad has passed resolutions recommending the appointment by the President of Mr Justice Kevin Haugh to be chairperson of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and Mr Conor Brady and Ms Carmel Foley to be members of the Ombudsman Commission. Those appointments will be made by the President later today (10 February).
The Minister said that the members of the Ombudsman Commission will have a number of very important tasks immediately before them when they are appointed. There are certain cases specified in the Act which must be investigated by the Commission. There are others where it will be a matter for the Commission to determine whether or not they will be directly investigated by the Commission. Another important task the members of the Commission will face will be to recruit, appoint and train staff. This is a very new role that the Ombudsman Commission is undertaking. It is very different from that of the Garda Complaints Board. The new Commission will be responsible for carrying out investigations. They will need specialist staff to enable them to do so. Recruiting such staff, who may have to be recruited from abroad, is likely to take some time. When staff are appointed and trained the Commission will then be in a position to commence receiving complaints.
The Minister said, "I expect that the entire process will take up to a year. The Ombudsman Commission should be in a position at that point to open its doors to start receiving complaints. I note that this is also the conclusion of the Review Group".
The Minister said that he would continue to implement the remaining provisions of the Act as a matter of priority.
The report will be available today on the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform website (www.justice.ie).
10 February 2006.
Garda Síochána Act 2005 Implementation Review Group Report (PDF – 1.6MB)