Written answers

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Department of Justice and Equality

Garda Misconduct Allegations

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
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514. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the independent review panel of complaints against An Garda Síochána; the timeline for the completion of the review; the personnel currently on the review panel; the conflict of interest procedures on the panel; if the findings of the panel will be published; if a debate will be held on the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41459/14]

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
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517. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the timeframe for the completion of the independent review mechanism currently being conducted by the panel of barristers; the number of cases that have been completed to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41519/14]

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
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519. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the actions she will take to address cases similar to those currently being reviewed by the independent review mechanism when the review mechanism ceases to function; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41521/14]

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin North, United Left)
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533. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the numbers of cases that have been reviewed by the review panel; if persons have been notified of the results; and the outcome or current status of their cases. [41946/14]

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 514, 517, 519 and 533 together.

The Deputies are referring to the mechanism established for the independent review of certain allegations of Garda misconduct, or inadequacies in the investigation of certain allegations, which have been made to me as Minister for Justice and Equality, or the Taoiseach, with a view to determining to what extent and in what manner further action may be required in each case. A panel consisting of two Senior and five Junior Counsel was established for the purpose. The counsel appointed to the panel, and who were all selected on the basis of their experience of the criminal justice system, are:

Senior Counsel: Conor Devally, Paul Greene.

Junior Counsel: Paul Carroll, John Fitzgerald, Tony McGillicuddy, Siobhán Ni Chúlacháin, Karen O'Connor.

Appropriate steps have been taken to ensure that nothing arises which might in any way detract from the integrity of the review mechanism, including issues of conflict of interest. Arrangements have been put in place to ensure that if there is any conflict, or potential conflict, the conflicted counsel not only will not be involved in the particular complaint, but also will not be aware of which counsel is reviewing it. This is normal professional conduct and there are sufficient counsel on the Panel to ensure the practicality of this. Whatever steps are necessary will be taken to ensure there is no conflict of interest.

It was originally anticipated that the review would last some ten to twelve weeks. However, the availability of Counsel due to the operation of the Courts calendar together with the volume of complaints submitted means that this timeframe will be exceeded. As I already mentioned, it is important that nothing arises which might detract from the integrity of the review mechanism. It is therefore considered inappropriate to place a time constraint upon the working of the Panel, although they intend to conclude their work as soon is reasonably practicable.

I understand the panel have to date reviewed almost 140 cases and I expect recommendations to be submitted to me in due course. I will decide whether any further action is desirable and could practicably be taken in each case in light of the recommendations made by Counsel on the Panel, and each complainant will be notified accordingly. While it would not be appropriate to publish individual recommendations, I will consider how best information on the outcome of this process could be made public.

While the independent review mechanism was established as a temporary measure, it was envisaged that there might be a need to consider the case for a continuing capacity to review further cases which may arise in the future. I have no doubt that the contents of the recommendations received from the Panel will inform how we deal with such issues once the independent review mechanism has concluded its work.

The Deputies will be aware however that, as part of the Government's comprehensive programme of reform in the areas of policing and justice in the State, I am bringing forward new legislation to amend the Garda Siochana Act 2005 to strengthen the remit and powers of GSOC, which is the statutory independent body set up under the Act with oversight functions in relation to the Garda Siochana. One of the legislative changes is to broaden the scope for me as Minister to refer any matter that gives rise to a concern to GSOC for investigation, and I would envisage GSOC as the primary mechanism for the future examination of allegations of this nature.

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