Justice Questions

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Justice Questions

May
2017
25

Dáil Issues, Justice, Oral Questions

 

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the follow up action she proposes to take arising from the findings of the Fennelly Report which demonstrated evidence of improper conduct by members of An Garda Síochána regarding the terms of reference (m) and the investigation into the death of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. – Clare Daly

REPLY.

The final Report of the Fennelly Commission of Investigation was published on 6 April 2017.  Part 12 of the Report concerns the  terms of reference (1) m which required the Commission ” to identify and review all recordings in the possession of An Garda Síochána emanating from the Garda telephone recording system at Bandon Garda Station or otherwise, which relate to the Garda investigation into the death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier and to establish whether those recorded phone calls, and any other acts or events in the course of the said Garda investigation, disclose any evidence of unlawful or improper conduct by members of An Garda Síochána in connection with that investigation”.

The Commission found that calls relating to the Du Plantier murder investigation were recorded in Bandon Station and the majority of these recording were destroyed in a flood in the Station in 2009. Some of the recordings relating to private conversations between members of the Garda Síochána were judged to contain material which was damaging to the Garda Síochána. The Commission found evidence of improper conduct by members of the Garda Síochána, some of whom are now deceased. There was inappropriate disclosure of information to a member who was not directly involved in handling an investigation and evidence of mishandling of an assault involving the husband of a witness. While there was evidence that a member contemplated modifying or falsifying evidence, no such acts were in fact carried out. The Commission also concluded that the recordings did not disclose any evidence of the provision of drugs or money to a witness.

Having regard to the Commission’s findings in relation to this matter, I have referred the Part 12 of the Fennelly Report to GSOC under Section 102(7) of the Garda Síochána Act (as amended) for consideration as to whether GSOC wishes to investigate this matter further.

More generally, I have referred the final report from the Fennelly Commission to the Policing Authority under section 62O(6) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, and requested the Authority to oversee the implementation by the Garda Síochána of the recommendations contained in the report and to report to me with progress on a quarterly basis.

QUESTION NO:  76

DAIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald)

by Deputy Clare Daly

for ORAL on Tuesday, 23rd May, 2017.

 To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the number of members of An Garda Síochána that made protected disclosures and are presently off work on work related stress; the steps she has taken to satisfy herself that they are not being subjected to bullying and harassment; and if she will make a statement on the matter.-Clare Daly TD

REPLY.

Members of An Garda Síochána may make protected disclosures to the Garda Commissioner, to GSOC or to me as Minister.  I am informed that eight Protected Disclosures have been made to the Garda Commissioner, and that GSOC have received seven disclosures with another four active from the previous two years.  There have been eight Protected Disclosures made to me as Minister for Justice and Equality since the 2014 Act came into force.  I have also received a number of other documents which cannot fall to be considered as Protected Disclosures but have had to be treated with similar confidentiality and sensitivity.  I should point out that it is possible that the same individual will have made a protected disclosure to more than one of the possible recipients under the Act, and that there may therefore be some overlap in the figures quoted.  I am not in a position to provide the Deputy with the number of whistleblowers who are currently absent from work on stress related leave.  Given the obligation to protect the identity of those who make protected disclosures, it would require a breach of this obligation to attempt to collate information on the number who may be off work for any reason.

As the Deputy is aware, the Protected Disclosures Act came into operation on 15 July 2014. Members of An Garda Síochána who wish to make a protected disclosure may do so in accordance with the provisions of the Act.  The Act replaced the previous system of making disclosures to a Confidential Recipient.  The 2014 Act put Gardaí in the same position, including receiving the same statutory protections, as others who wish to make a protected disclosure about alleged wrongdoing.

Accordingly, members of the Garda Síochána may communicate their concerns to the Garda Commissioner, as their employer if they so choose, or they may make a disclosure directly to GSOC.  Where a protected disclosure is made to GSOC, the Act provides that GSOC may, if it appears to it desirable in the public interest to do so, investigate the disclosure. It is important to recognise the very significant fact that a member of the Gardaí who makes a disclosure in accordance with the Act is entitled to all the protections provided for whistleblowers in the Act.  These protections include protection from having their identity revealed, protection from dismissal and protection from being penalised in their employment as a result of having made a protected disclosure.

The Deputy is no doubt aware of the measures taken by the Garda Commissioner in relation to protected disclosures outlined at her meeting in June 2016 with the Policing Authority. The Garda Síochána have published their Protected Disclosures Policy and all Garda members and civilians have been informed of this policy. In addition the Garda Commissioner has appointed a Protected Disclosures Manager who will be supported with a dedicated and properly trained team. The Garda Síochána have been working with Transparency International Ireland and other external providers to create an environment to ensure that whistleblowers are properly protected and supported.

In light of the public interest in An Garda Síochána having robust policies and procedures in place to support and protect whistleblowers and to ensure that their complaints or allegations are fully investigated, I asked the Policing Authority on 2 June 2016 to examine and report on the policies and procedures in place in An Garda Síochána to deal with whistleblowers/whistleblowing.  I also asked that they make any recommendations that they consider appropriate in order to ensure that the policies and procedures in place are appropriate and can provide assurance that whistleblowers can make complaints or allegations in a safe environment where their complaints or allegations are properly investigated.

The Policing Authority completed its review and reported to me on 11 November, 2016.  The Report was published on my Department’s website and has been laid before both Houses in accordance with the Act. The Garda Commissioner has since published a revised policy document as result of the Report. The Commissioner is committed to providing an environment in which protected disclosures can be made in full knowledge that persons making such disclosures will be supported and protected in the workplace.