To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will update Dáil Éireann regarding the Independent Review Mechanism into cases of Garda malpractice, in terms of the number of persons who have been communicated with by the panel; the number of cases that they have recommended for further investigation; and the way she proposes to address the cases for which no further action is recommended.
for ORAL ANSWER on Tuesday, 26th May, 2015
– Clare Daly
There are currently 319 complaints being considered under the mechanism. The review of each complaint consists of an examination of the papers in the complaint by a counsel from the Panel and does not involve interviews or interaction with complainants or any other form of investigation, although counsel may recommend that I seek further information to assist in coming to an appropriate recommendation in any particular case. The process of the Independent Review is not a Commission of Inquiry or Investigation designed to make findings. Its purpose is to triage these allegations to see if further investigations are needed.
The recommendation in each case is a matter for counsel. Clearly, there are a number of possible options for further investigations, in particular by way of referral to GSOC. The Deputy will appreciate that I should, in the first instance, inform the individuals in question of the outcome in their individual cases. Accordingly it would not be appropriate for me to elaborate on the outcomes at this stage.
I should say that the volume and complexity of cases has led to the review taking longer than originally anticipated. However, I’m sure that Deputies will agree that it is important that counsel take the time necessary to consider each case fully and carefully. Indeed, the very number and variety of cases makes the work of counsel all the more important. There are many cases which have already been through some form of process, whether that involves the courts or GSOC or some other body. The issues in the cases also range considerably, from tragic deaths to property disputes. Clearly such a number and range of cases must be carefully triaged to see if further action is warranted.
While the review of all the allegations is not yet completed, my Department has received the recommendations of counsel in a significant number of cases. I have now received the first batch of submissions on these cases and clearly I want to start the process of writing to everyone concerned as soon as possible.
I will consider the recommendations of counsel extremely seriously, and as a general comment let me say that I cannot easily imagine circumstances where I would not follow such recommendations. In communicating with individuals, I am also anxious not only to set out the recommendation of counsel and my decision on it, but to outline as far as possible the reasons for the recommendation, subject to any legal constraints there may be. The legal advice of counsel contains in many cases comments relating to third parties, and clearly great care will have to be taken in setting out the main points made by counsel in a way which respects the rights of everyone concerned.
This process will therefore have to be carefully and appropriately managed, so as to reflect the independence and objectivity which have been the hallmark of this process to date.
I have therefore decided to appoint a former judicial figure to advise on the preparation of the letters. I believe it is better to take that time now so as to provide complete reassurance on the probity and independence of this entire process, from start to finish. I hope the House can accept that what I have decided about communicating decisions is the right course of action to take.
While it would not be appropriate to publish individual recommendations, I have considered how best information on the outcome of this process could be made public. In this regard, I have asked counsel, in addition to making recommendations in individual cases, to produce a general overview of the issues and trends which featured in this process. I believe that this may lead to the identification of issues and recommendation for change across a number of areas, which I hope will enable us to address some of the general and thematic concerns raised by those persons whose cases were examined by counsel. The report, when received, will be published by me.
To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality her views that two Garda whistleblowers, who made serious allegations of Garda malpractice over a year ago, have not had investigations of their complaints completed, and that they have been placed in a very vulnerable position, vis a vis their peers; her plans regarding same; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
for ORAL ANSWER on Tuesday, 26th May, 2015
– Clare Daly
By way of background, can I explain that, prior to the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 coming into operation, whistleblowing by members of the Garda Síochána was provided for under the Garda Síochána (Confidential Reporting of Corruption or Malpractice) Regulations 2007, which provided for the appointment of an independent Confidential Recipient to whom Garda members, and civilian support staff, could report, in full confidence, instances where they believed there may have been corruption or malpractice within the Garda Síochána.
The Confidential Recipient was required to transmit each confidential report to the Garda Commissioner. Only where a confidential report contained an allegation which related to the Garda Commissioner was it transmitted to the Minister. In transmitting a report, the Confidential Recipient was obliged to protect the identity of the whistleblower, and any communication between the Confidential Recipient and the whistleblower was confidential and was not conveyed to the Minister or Departmental officials. The Regulations provided that any harassment or intimidation of a member who had made a confidential report would be dealt with in accordance with law and the relevant disciplinary regulations or disciplinary code.
This system was replaced by the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, which came into operation on 15 July 2014 as part of this Government’s comprehensive approach to enhance the protection available to whistle blowers, including Garda whistleblowers. GSOC was prescribed under the Act as a body to receive protected disclosures on Garda matters. Under the Act, members of the Garda Síochána may now communicate their concerns to the Garda Commissioner, as their employer, or to GSOC as a prescribed body, and are entitled to the protections provided by the Act. I am satisfied that the legislative provisions now in place under the 2014 Act, including the protections afforded for whistleblowers, will prove to be an effective remedy for Garda members who wish to report their concerns regarding potential wrongdoing.
With regard to the two cases referred to by the Deputy, can I first of all make the point that all of us in this House must be very careful in discussing individual cases of whistleblowing. The Protected Disclosures Act rightly prioritises the confidentiality of the whistleblowing process, a confidentiality which is not easily reconciled with open discussions on the floor of this House. However, I can say that I am advised by the Garda authorities that reports in both of the cases referred to by the Deputy were originally received under the Confidential Recipient regulations . I understand that one of the cases is the subject of a comprehensive criminal investigation and upon completion may be the subject of a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions. I understand that the second case was subsequently referred to GSOC under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014.
I know that the Deputy will appreciate that I have no functions in relation to criminal investigations and the submission of files to the DPP, or in relation to the investigation of complaints by GSOC, and we must await the outcome of these investigations.