IHREC designate calls for greater human rights accountability and transparency in policing structures in the State

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (designate) (IHREC) appeared, today, before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality to present its key recommendations to the review of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 initiated by the committee.

In his address to the Committee, Mr David Joyce, Acting Chair of the Commission designate said: “Accountability in the policing structure of the State is a key concern of the IHRC. Effective oversight bodies, coupled with transparency and engagement with the community, are core mechanisms of human rights accountability. While the establishment of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) under the 2005 Act was a significant step forward, there are deficits in the legislation underpinning it. Such a mechanism on its own is not sufficient to provide a comprehensive structure to ensure accountability in policing, and why a policing authority is now recommended.”

Mr Joyce said “those elements which the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has identified as essential in the new Policing Authority are:

  • Its establishment in a manner that optimises independence and properly balances the Executive’s influence in the work of such an authority with its independent functions;

  • Ensuring sufficient representation from different sectors of society including minorities and representatives of the public more generally.”

In addition, Mr Joyce stated that “a Policing Authority should have the following minimum functions:

  • Monitor and address human rights and equality compliance by An Garda Síochána at every level of its operations and align breaches of discipline or criminal offences identified by GSOC and which would also reveal a breach of human rights or a discriminatory act with disciplinary procedures within the force.

  • Appointing, disciplining and ultimately dismissing senior management within An Garda Síochána, that would fall outside the statutory remit of GSOC;

  • Reviewing the adequacy of standards in relation to the training of An Garda Síochána and the structures, policies and procedures for assessment and development of those standards, with a very specific emphasis on training in human rights and equality.

  • The Policing Authority should have a defined relationship with GSOC that reinforces the independence of the latter, while allowing the policing authority to bring to the attention of GSOC matters of concern that might warrant an investigation by GSOC.”

Dr Des Hogan, Acting CEO of the IHRC stated: “In relation to complaints, the IHRC considers that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission with reconfigured resources and a strengthened statutory mandate should receive and investigate all complaints. We consider all complaints, including those relating to the Commissioner’s Office and national security issues should be capable of being investigated, allowing for  sufficient safeguards where national security is concerned. No police station should be out of bounds for investigators as is currently allowed for under the Garda Síochána Act, 2005.”

Mr Joyce said “GSOC’s formal independence should be strengthened to insulate it from Ministerial influence. GSOC should be properly mandated and resourced to avoid the need for future Commissions of Investigation. There will need to be continued linkage with Garda disciplinary procedures to allow violations of rights to be quickly addressed and so that systemic issues of poor service can be acted upon. The proposed Policing Authority offers the opportunity to capture a number of these elements, with the caveat that the independence of GSOC and the National Preventive Mechanism yet to be established under the UN Optional Protocol to the Torture Convention (allowing for inspection of all places of detention) not be compromised through reporting requirements at odds with the discharge of functions by independent bodies. Ultimately the policing function in the State requires an internal culture in An Garda Síochána which fully respects human rights and equality and where there is sufficient space for both structural and individual wrong-doing to be addressed.”

ENDS/

For further information please contact Fidelma Joyce, IHRC Mob: 087 783 4939

Notes to Editor

Link to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission’s submission to the Review of the Garda Síochána Act 2005.

 

 

 

 

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