Abuse of authority is main complaint to Garda watchdog

Fri, May 29, 2009, 01:00

ALLEGATIONS OF abuse of authority, neglect of duty and discourtesy constituted the majority of complaints against gardaí last year, according to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission’s (GSOC) annual report.

Commissioner Conor Brady said these allegations represented about 75 per cent of complaints received in 2008.

A total of 4,227 allegations arose from 2,681 complaints.

“We then have a small number of allegations of what would be serious criminal offences, but they would be relatively small. But although they’re small they do absorb by definition a lot of resources,” he said.

The divisions with the largest number of complaints were Louth /Meath and Waterford/Kilkenny.

Twenty six per cent of complaints related to allegations of abuse of authority. Allegations of neglect of duty represented 25 per cent, discourtesy 21 per cent and assault 13 per cent.

Mr Brady said the single largest category of complainants was young men in urban areas. “By definition they are the people who are most likely, I suppose, to come into conflict with the guards.” The majority of complainants, 82 per cent, were Irish.

The report said the number of complaints received during 2008 was somewhat lower pro rata than in adjoining jurisdictions.

The situations that gave rise to most complaints were searches and investigations (34 per cent), arrests (18 per cent) and road traffic incidents (17 per cent). A total of 1,360 allegations were deemed inadmissible.

The report revealed that 31 files were last year sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), identifying 44 potential defendants.

The DPP gave 11 directions for prosecution. One garda was convicted of dangerous driving, arising from a GSOC investigation of an incident in 2007.

Ten others were awaiting court dates at the end of last year, the report said. The DPP gave 30 directions for no prosecution.

During 2008, the GSOC received 129 referrals from the Garda Commissioner, in cases in which it appeared to the commissioner that the conduct of a Garda member may have resulted in the death of, or serious harm to, a person.

Thirteen referrals involved 14 fatalities: three gardaí and 11 members of the public. Eight fatalities arose from road traffic incidents and six arose “following Garda contact”, the report said.

There were no deaths in Garda custody in 2008, the report said.

Two incidents of Taser device use were reported to the commission last year. “GSOC found no Garda misbehaviour in relation to these incidents,” the report said.

2008 was the commission’s first full year of operational activity. The report said the GSOC received a further 1,636 queries from the general public and had 2,028 complaints “on hand” at the end of the year.

Most common grievances

IN THE Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commissions report, 4,227 allegations arose from 2,681 complaints. The main allegations were:

Abuse of authority:26%

Neglect of duty:25%

Discourtesy:21%

 Assault/non-fatal offence:13%

Corrupt/improper action:4%

Falsehood/prevarication:3%
Other: 8%