Gardaí treated as second class citizens by GSOC, conference hears

AGSI conference hears delegate call for end to co-operation with commission

 

Anomalies in legislation governing the powers and practices of GSOC are leading to gardaí being treated like second class citizens, the AGSI conference in Killarney heard today.

Galway delegate and AGSI National Executive member, Ernie White pointed out that when GSOC investigate a member of An Garda Síochána on foot of a complaint, they are not obliged to inform the member either who made the complaint or what exactly the complaint was.

He urged Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to address the issue.

“We are all members of An Garda Siochana and we are all members of AGSI, but more importantly, we are all citizens of Ireland, ” said Mr White. “As such, we have constitutional rights like all other citizens - we have rights to due process, we have rights to fair procedures.

“Despite this, it is quite normal that when a complaint is a made about a member, GSOC can look into the complaint, and if they find no merit in that complaint, they simply write to the member telling them that there is no merit in the complaint and essentially telling you that you are not guilty.

“But if a member has the audacity to ask what was that complaint about, or who made the complaint, GSOC will hide behind Section 81 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 -which states that GSOC does not have disclose any information if they feel that it may have a harmful effect.”

Mr White said such a practice did not “sound like due process”. There is no other job in the country where a complaint could be made about somebody and the person is not informed what the complaint was about or who made it, he said.

He also pointed out that when gardaí investigate a complaint against a member of the public for a summary offence, they have six months to bring a prosecution, yet GSOC have 12 months to bring a prosecution against a member of An Garda Síochána when a complaint is made.

“We are citizens and we should not be treated like second class citizens - apparently the Minister is going to look at GSOC processes and practices and powers and I would ask the Minister to take these points and the points by the other speakers into account when he is reviewing the legislation.”

Mr White was speaking on a motion urging the Garda Commissioner to end “the unfair practice” of requesting statements from gardaí when a complaint has been made against them or other officers without informing them of the nature of the complaint or the identities of those complained of.

Proposing the motion, Tony Quinn of Laois-Offaly said GSOC frequently requests assistance from An Garda Siochana in taking statements in such investigation but he said it was unfair to do this when gardai were not informed by GSOC of the exact nature of the complaint.

“Given the recent controversy involving the two organisations, we feel it is time to withdraw co-operation with GSOC and not be so accommodating to their needs - let them carry out their investigations - don’t ask members of this association to do their work for them,” he said.