GSOC’s response to the Cooke Report

Garda Ombudsman welcomes finding that organisation acted in good faith

GSOC commissioners (from left) Kieran Fitzgerald, Carmel Foley and Simon O’Brien. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

GSOC commissioners (from left) Kieran Fitzgerald, Carmel Foley and Simon O’Brien. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 07:36

Below is the full text of a statement issued by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission in response to the Cooke report.

GSOC welcomes the fact that, after months of controversy, the Cooke report finds that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission “acted in good faith”.

The report has found that, while certain anomalies raised concerns about security within GSOC -one of which “remains unexplained” - “the evidence does not support the proposition that actual surveillance of the kind asserted in the Sunday Times article took place and much less that it was carried out by members of the Garda Síochána”.

This in fact mirrors key findings of our own investigation which stated, as per our press release of 10th February, that GSOC was “satisfied that our databases were not compromised” and that “there was no evidence of garda misconduct.”

We agree with the Judge’s observation that in the “world of covert surveillance and counter surveillance techniques, it is ultimately extremely difficult to determine with complete certainty whether unexplained anomalies of the kinds identified in this instance were or were not attributable to unlawful intrusion”.

We encountered exactly the same difficulty in our own investigation, which we explained in the public discourse in February of this year. Therefore GSOC decided, at a certain point, that further investigative steps were not reasonably practicable. The Judge subsequently conducted further enquiries, and has drawn more definite conclusions than GSOC’s own investigation, with regard to two out of three of the anomalies.

While the report says that our recourse to section 102(4) of the Garda Síochána Act (2005) may possibly have been premature, that opinion should be read, as the report states, “in view of the additional information that has come to light in this Inquiry”.

We note the clear qualification that “the existing wording is undoubtedly open also to the interpretation hitherto given to it by GSOC”.

We note the recommendation that consideration should be given to clarifying certain aspects of the Garda Síochána Act (2005).

We are actively engaged in discussions regarding legislative change: we have been calling for examination of that Act for a considerable period of time and have recently made a submission on this to the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Justice & Equality.

We will consider carefully the further recommendations contained in the report in relation to security arrangements. We are happy that the Judge is satisfied that the steps taken by GSOC to rectify security deficiencies that came to light as a result of our investigations are adequate.

We agree fully with his recommendation that we should “more frequently carry out a thorough and suitable counter-surveillance examination” of our offices and we plan to do so, in order that complainants and gardaí alike can be fully confident of the security and privacy of data held by GSOC.