Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Department of Justice and Equality
357. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress being made by the panel of legal experts appointed by her to review certain cases; the expected timeframe for the completion of this review; the number of cases dealt with to date; if she has responded to the concerns raised by a person (details supplied) relative to the appointment of a person; if so, the details of her response; the order in which the cases are being dealt with; if she will issue the panel's recommendations relative to each case; if she will provide her decision as to the action that is to be taken on a case by case basis or if it is her intention to wait until all cases are dealt with before informing the families and Dáil Éireann; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47819/14]
The Deputy is 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 were all selected on the basis of their experience of the criminal justice system. The review of each complaint will consist of an examination of the papers in the complaint by a counsel from the Panel. Following the review of each complaint a recommendation will be made to me as Minister as to whether any further action is desirable and could practicably be taken.
The independent review is well underway and 307 cases have been referred to them. 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. 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. This has been explained to the person to whom the Deputy refers. The order in which cases are dealt with is a matter for Senior Counsel who, in addition to examining individual complaints, are required to advise the Department generally on the management of the process, take a joint lead in allocating cases to Junior Counsel, and jointly oversee recommendations with a view to ensuring as far as possible a consistency of approach. Consideration is currently being finalised in relation to the format and content of replies to complainants, and the objective will be to ensure that each complainant receives as comprehensive an answer as possible.
Without in any way pre-judging the outcome in any individual case, I think it is important to be realistic and to acknowledge that in many instances no further action may be recommended by the review. This is to some extent inevitable in circumstances where, on the one hand, individuals have genuine but necessarily subjective concerns about how their particular cases were originally handled and, on the other hand, counsel have to examine objective evidence, and in particular take into account whether those cases have been through due process, even if the persons involved remain unhappy with the outcome of that process.