IHREC Designate says Policing Authority has vital role to ensure An Garda Síochána is accountable, transparent and capable of fully protecting human rights and equality

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Designate (IHREC Designate), today, published its submission to the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Justice calling for the establishment of an independent Policing Authority that ensures public confidence and trust in An Garda Síochána and minimises political influence in its operations.

Betty Purcell, Acting Chair of the IHREC Designate stated “The proposed Police Authority should be established with sufficient independence, resources and functional capacity to address the deficits in accountability and oversight of An Garda Síochána which have recently come to light. The new Authority has a vital role to play in ensuring An Garda Síochána meet all the aspects of accountability set out in the Patten Report on Policing in Northern Ireland in addition to the State’s human rights obligations to ensure that proper accountability structures are in place within An Garda Síochána. This will allow it to undertake effective investigations following suspicious deaths, address foreseeable risks of human rights violations and have in place proper complaints mechanisms to deal with human rights violations by the police, all human rights obligations on the State.”

Setting out recommended oversight functions more specifically, Ms Purcell said “The Policing Authority should set objectives and performance targets for An Garda Síochána and monitor and report on the achievement of those targets, including human rights and equality compliance at every level of its operations. The Authority should supervise the Garda Commissioner’s Office and the discharge of its functions, and where appropriate discipline senior management including the Garda Commissioner.” Regarding membership, Ms Purcell said “appointment procedures and composition should ensure that the Body is pluralist and independent which may be ensured by an appropriate oversight role for the Oireachtas. The Authority should be gender balanced and representative of different sectors of society including minorities.”

In relation to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), Dr. Des Hogan, Acting CEO of the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) said: “The relationship between the Policing Authority and GSOC should be complementary and clearly defined so as to ensure the independence of GSOC. The Policing Authority should be able to bring to the attention of GSOC matters of concern that might warrant an investigation by it. There should be an alignment of disciplinary procedures that flow from GSOC investigations. Henceforth GSOC should be empowered to consider all complaints concerning An Garda Síochána, and that such complaints encompass not only alleged misconduct by members of An Garda Síochána, but includes poor standards of service and alleged violations of human rights and equality”.

Dr. Hogan continued: “It is also important that GSOC be insulated from Ministerial control by being made accountable to the Oireachtas and independent in its functioning and budget. Its functions should also be supplemented by an investigative body with a remit to carry out unannounced inspections as is the current case with the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (“CPT”).

The IHREC Designate also recommends that the Garda Inspectorate report through the Policing Authority and that the Authority is functionally linked to the Office of the Confidential Recipient.

ENDS/

For more information please contact Fidelma Joyce, IHRC. Tel: 01 8589601 and Mob: 087 783 4939

Notes to Editor

  • The Patten Report on Policing in Northern Ireland identifies that police services should be democratically accountable to elected representatives, transparent, by keeping the community informed, be legally accountable in the event of the abuse of police powers, financially accountable, and internally accountable, by which officers are accountable within police services.
  • It should be noted that the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Bill 2014 includes a duty on public bodies at section 42 to“have regard to” the elimination of discrimination, promotion of equality and to protect the human rights of its members, staff and the persons to whom it provides services, which will also apply to An Garda Síochána.
  • The IHREC Designate Submission to the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Justice on the Establishment of an Independent Policing Authority is attached and available at www.ihrc.ie
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