Ombudsman failing to scrutinise spurious complaints, say gardaí

Mon, Apr 16, 2012, 01:00

RANK AND file gardaí believe the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is failing to properly investigate people who make vexatious complaints about gardaí.

They are now urging the Garda complaints agency to adapt a tougher approach when complainants are found to have deliberately lied.

The Garda Representative Association, which represents more than 10,00 rank and file gardaí, is also pressing for its members to be spared responsibility for supervising members of the Garda Reserve force while on duty.

Delegates at the association’s annual conference, which begins in Athlone today, are set to debate the contentious Garda Reserve issue during which the already heavy workload of full time gardaí will be outlined.

Many association members believe they do not have time to supervise Garda Reserve members and say that responsibility should be left to higher ranks, including sergeants and inspectors.

They are also fearful that if inexperience reservists get injured while on duty or badly handle a situation with members of the public, full-time gardaí supervising them at the time will be held responsible.

The conference will also hear lengthy debate on the issue of recent and planned Garda station closures. The GRA is concerned members of the public are more at risk of falling victim to crime because more than 40 stations have been closed or are to close.

The ombudsman commission’s work has always been contentious with many Garda members, and the commission has had a sometimes difficult relationship with the association.

This is likely to be aired again when delegates debate a motion condemning “the complete lack of proper investigation of vexatious complaints by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission”.

Some gardaí believe the commission is not moving decisively enough against members of the public who make serious complaints about gardaí, only for it to emerge later that the complaints were fabricated or embellished.

Gardaí believe if a firmer approach was taken, members would be spared often-stressful investigations into their conduct. They feel those intent on pursuing vexatious complaints would be dissuaded if there was a good chance they would face prosecution.

The association delegates will also debate the issue of the Garda vehicle fleet, with many gardaí believing it would make more financial sense to have a leased fleet rather than the one the force owns.

Other motions call for an improved set of procedures in Garda stations regarding the detention of prisoners in cells.

Some gardaí believe greater resources are needed to aid gardaí dealing with people with mental health issues who are held in Garda cells after arrest.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan are both due to address delegates at the event.