Garda watchdog denied independent access to Pulse database
Refusal of request for access will be seen as weakening Garda ombudsman
The demand from the ombudsman for open access to the Garda’s intelligence and criminal convictions database has caused a row between it and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan
The body that investigates complaints against Garda members has failed to secure unfettered access to the force’s computer database despite flagging its concerns on the matter in a recent high-profile case.
Under new protocols, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) must access the database via members of the force. This is despite telling Minister for Justice Alan Shatter in May that “the absence of any independent access to [the Pulse] systems raises issues around the effectiveness of GSOC’s oversight investigative function”.
It said at the time that the absence of independent access to Pulse resulted in its investigators having to take the word of gardaí that the information surrendered on request represented the total available. The Garda ombudsman believed this allowed the Garda control over its independent work.
In new protocols the ombudsman is still required to request access to Pulse from the Garda. Even when it is granted, Garda members will physically view the database on behalf of the ombudsman.
However, the Garda can no longer ask the ombudsman the specific reason it is seeking information, intelligence or evidence from the force. Provisions around the speedy supply of information have been tightened, with Garda members now obliged to state in writing the reason for the delay and timeframe when the material sought might be available.
This will create a record of delays and those Garda personnel responsible.
Nonetheless, the refusal of the request for access to Pulse will be seen as weakening the watchdog. There was no reply to queries on the matter addressed to Mr Shatter last evening.
The demand from the ombudsman to Mr Shatter for open access to the Garda’s intelligence and criminal convictions database caused a row between it and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan in May. The ombudsman complained the Garda had deliberately delayed and frustrated its four-year inquiry into allegations that Co Louth convicted drug dealer and Garda informer Kieran Boylan was allowed by his Garda handlers to continue dealing drugs while he supplied information on other dealers he sold to.
It also investigated if the dropping of criminal charges against Boylan relating to a multimillion euro drug seizure was related to his work as an informer. The inquiry in May found no evidence of Garda corruption.
The ombudsman said at the time mandatory protocols dictated that information should be supplied within 30 days of a request. This had occurred in just 29 per cent of cases. Some six of 63 requests for evidence or information took more than a year to process.