· Minister outlines Garda Síochána (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2014 to Dáil Eireann
· “I want to see practices and structures in place that will restore confidence in An Garda Síochána - Fitzgerald
Tuesday 21 October 2014
Frances Fitzgerald T.D., Minister for Justice and Equality, today addressed the Dáil on the provisions of An Garda Síochána (Amendment)(No. 3) Bill 2014.
The Minister described the Bill to expand the remit of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) as an important element of the Government’s comprehensive programme of justice reform.
Commenting on the legislation, the Minister said: “I have stressed my priority objective of strengthening the role and remit of the GSOC. This Bill seeks to deliver on that commitment.”
The Minister stated that we should not forget the ongoing and substantial contribution of An Garda Síochána to the safety of communities and state security.
“However, for all this good, I will not minimise or ignore the serious failures on penalty points, in crime investigation and in responding to whistleblowers.
“In some cases, what we have learned about the behaviour of members of An Garda Síochána has struck at the heart of our shared understanding of what justice itself is. We live in a republic, a republic of laws, where there is not and never can be a situation of one law for some but not others.”
The Minister said that GSOC has a pivotal role in dealing with complaints against Garda members and examining Garda practices and procedures. Since its establishment in the Garda Síochána Act 2005, certain restrictions have existed in relation to the extent to which the GSOC functions can be exercised.
The Bill will amend and update An Garda Síochána Act 2005 and other relevant legislation with the main objectives of:
· bringing An Garda Commissioner within the remit of GSOC for the first time;
· extending GSOC’s powers of investigation in relation to complaints involving suspected criminal behaviour;
· ensuring that An Garda Síochána provides information sought by GSOC for an investigation as soon as practicable; and
· providing greater autonomy for GSOC in examining the Garda Síochána’s practices, policies and procedures.
The Minister said: “A commonly-shared determination and desire, within An Garda Síochána and among communities right across this country is to see reform happen, to see a break from the past, to move on from these controversies to a new period of confidence.”
“This will involve confronting deficiencies and failures, and it will involve examining openly and transparently and vigorously, where there are operational practices that are simply not up to standard. This will be done.”
Achieving this requires acknowledgement, reforms and resources. Last week’s budget begun to address the question of resources, providing for 400 new vehicles, 300 Gardaí entering Garda College in Templemore, and the civilianisation of immigration functions to free up 150 Gardaí to frontline policing.
“I believe that this Bill will contribute in a meaningful way to the operation of GSOC so as to ensure that the wider public will have confidence in it and how it carries out its important tasks.”
The Minister continued: “The measures provided for in the Bill take account of the results of a public consultation process initiated by the Cabinet Committee on Justice Reform and also relevant work within the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. Further changes in relation to GSOC will be considered in the context of the legislation to establish a new Policing Authority which I will introduce as quickly as possible.”
Notes for editors
The main purpose of the Garda Síochána (Amendment)(No. 3) Bill 2014 is to amend the Garda Síochána Act 2005 to expand the remit and powers of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), which is the independent body responsible for receiving and dealing with complaints made by members of the public concerning the conduct of members of the Garda Síochána. Amendments are also being made to further legislation in respect of the exercise of certain police powers by GSOC.
The Bill is available at www.oireachtas.ie