Race and ethnicity should be recorded during stop and search

An Garda Síochána must provide disaggregated data on policing activity

Members of An Garda Síochána should be expressly required to record the racial and ethnic origin of a person during a stop and search, and stronger wording should be included in the Garda Síochána (Powers) Bill to prohibit racial profiling, accompanied by detailed guidelines that are developed in consultation with relevant groups.

That is according to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’), who today published their submission on the General Scheme of the Garda Síochána (Powers) Bill, which includes over 100 recommendations.

Comprehensive disaggregated equality data collection is a fundamental tool in the oversight of police powers. Without equality data, including special categories on racial and ethnic origin, it is difficult to measure how the implementation of Garda powers impacts people in different sectors of society. This Bill is an opportunity to ensure a coordinated and systematic approach in the collection and retention of equality data. Yet as it stands, this opportunity is not being grasped.

The legislation should directly reference non-discrimination in relation to stop and search powers, and legislative proposals on collecting race and ethnicity data should be accompanied by training for members of An Garda Síochána in the areas of cultural competence, human rights, and equality. Furthermore, the Commission recommends that the custody record should contain a record of the detainee’s race or ethnicity for the purpose of equality data collection.

While a legal basis for An Garda Síochána to collect race and ethnicity data already exists, this legislation provides an opportunity to strengthen this, by creating a specific statutory basis and requirement for data collection. These legislative measures should ensure that members of An Garda Síochána have the necessary powers to collect and process this data, and to ensure that the processing is proportionate.

Ultimately, the legislation must ensure balance between the rights of the citizen to have an effective police force, capable of detecting and prosecuting crime, and the rights of the individual to enjoy the full range of their human rights and freedoms. Any limitations placed upon the rights of an individual under this legislation must comply with the human rights and equality principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality.

The Commission welcomes the inclusion of an obligation on members of An Garda Síochána to act with due respect for core fundamental human rights*. These are at the heart of the Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty* as set out in legislation. However the Commission stresses that the principle of equality and the need to respect and protect human dignity should be explicitly recognised, as should the principle of non-discrimination, and the rights and protections of the individual broadened generally in the legislation.

The consolidation of Garda powers touches upon a number of rights and equality issues. The Commission advises that the precise scope of the powers provided to An Garda Síochána needs to be outlined within the legislation, as opposed to being addressed in codes of practice. Additionally, a clear distinction needs to be maintained between ordinary and extra-ordinary police powers to avoid conflation.

Other recommendations are made regarding the treatment of people with disabilities, in respect of protecting the rights of children and in the areas of education and training.

Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney said:

“The specific use of police powers by the State can significantly impact individuals and groups, which is why it’s so important to ensure they are exercised in a consistent and unbiased way.

“Across the globe we’ve seen examples of how bias can negatively affect community policing, so by ensuring we collect and monitor disaggregated equality data as a standard part of our policing, we can be alert to how powers are being used, and where necessary to responsively change practices.

 “We must approach this legislation with a level of self-awareness as a State to ensure the equal and unbiased exercising of Garda powers. We currently do not have the data to measure bias; it is crucial that this legislation is amended, as it is a vital tool in the effective oversight of police powers.”

Recommendations include:

  • The introduction of an ‘appropriate adult scheme’ in line with the UK National Appropriate Adult Network; limitations placed on the circumstances in which a child may be questioned prior to the provision of legal representation; and a confirmation that the deprivation of liberty for a child is strictly a measure of last resort
  • An express obligation for Gardaí to exercise their powers in a manner that takes account of the rights and inherent dignity of all persons with disabilities; that training for Gardaí on how to meet the needs of persons with disabilities is provided; and that the definition of disability be broadened to include the definition of disability under CRPD
  • That the legislation fully incorporates the protections of the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), in particular the obligations to educate and train law enforcement on the prohibition against torture and that this legislation be aligned with its protections
  • That there is explicit reference to the principles of equality, non-discrimination and dignity
  • There should be an obligation on Gardaí to take all reasonable steps to protect the rights of a person with disabilities, including the right to an intermediate or advocate and all reasonable accommodations required.
  • In respect of protecting the rights of children, the Commission highlights the role of the lawyer, or appropriate adult, in safeguarding the rights of a child in detention, and recommends that the legislation should greatly limit the circumstances in which a child is deprived of this safeguard.
  • That education and training be made available for Gardaí in many of the human rights areas addressed under the General Scheme, such as non-discrimination, dealing appropriately with people with disability, and the prohibition against torture.

Read the full text of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission’s submission and recommendations on the General Scheme of the Garda Síochána (Powers) Bill


For further information, please contact:

Sarah Clarkin, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 852 9641 / 087 468 7760


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Notes for Editors:

*The core human rights and principles engaged by the Scheme include:

–  the right to liberty;

– the right to privacy;

– the right to bodily integrity and the right to life

– the right to inviolability of the dwelling;

– fair procedure and fair trial rights, including:

-the right to silence and the privilege against self-incrimination

– the right of reasonable access to a solicitor

– interpretation and translation rights;

-non-discrimination, and equality before and under the law

*The Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty

The Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty set out in the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act, places a positive duty on public sector bodies to have regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, promote equality and protect human rights in their daily work. 

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.