Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Department of Justice and Equality
Independent Review Mechanism
262. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the reason the opinion from counsel on findings of the 320 cases that precipitated establishment of the independent review mechanism has not been provided to complainants; if these opinions will be made available to complainants in the interest of transparency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51926/17]
The Deputy is referring to the 320 cases which were considered by the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM).
The reports provided by counsel and containing their recommendations to the Minister in each case constitute legal advice and they are, accordingly, subject to legal professional privilege. Issues of public policy arise here and I do not believe that it would be appropriate that I should waive that privilege in this instance. I can say, however, that in compliance with a discovery order made by the Disclosures Tribunal, my Department did provide the full reports in relation to those cases covered by the order.
As the Deputy will be aware, the IRM is the process which was set up by the Government in May 2014 to consider allegations of Garda misconduct or deficiencies in the way that Gardaí had carried out investigations.
A panel consisting of 2 Senior Counsel and 5 Junior Counsel was established for the purpose. All were selected on the basis of their knowledge of the criminal justice system. Recommendations were received in all 320 complaints referred to the panel and my predecessor accepted all of the recommendations. The process of issuing decision letters to the complainants largely concluded in February 2016.
While the report and recommendations from counsel were not provided to complainants, my predecessor sought to ensure that the letters which issued to complainants informing them of the outcome of the review of their particular complaints should not only set out the recommendation of counsel but also outline, in so far as possible, the reasons for that recommendation, subject to any legal constraints there may be. To that end she appointed a retired judge, Mr Justice Roderick Murphy, to advise on the preparation of the letters which issued and independently vouch for the fact that the summaries of counsel’s conclusions and the reasoning behind them, as was outlined in the letters, were a fair reflection of counsel's advice.