Proposal to prevent Gardaí from retiring if under investigation by Gsoc
Minister for Justice calls for accelerated investigation of retiring members cases
Assistant commissioner Fintan Fanning is currently suspended and under investigation by Gsoc but is due to retire in August File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times
A member of An Garda Síochána will be prevented from retiring if he or she is under investigation by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission or successor organisations, under proposed new plans.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has separately called on Gsoc to ensure that any cases being investigated against retiring members of the force are accelerated.
Mr Flanagan did not comment on any specific cases but, when asked by The Irish Times if a garda should retire with an investigation in which they are involved halted – without any findings made – he said such cases should be given priority.
Gsoc is currently investigating claims made against Fintan Fanning, an assistant commissioner, who is due to retire in August after a 39-year career.
Mr Fanning disputes the claims against him and has taken a High Court challenge aimed at overturning his “bizarre” and “unlawful” suspension from duty pending the outcome of an investigation by Gsoc.
Investigations conducted by Gsoc must cease if the Garda under investigation resigns or retires. Only in cases where a criminal charge is being pursued would the process continue after a Garda member had retired.
Gsoc itself has previously argued that it should be permissible to delay the retirement of a garda under investigation, “including non-criminal investigation”. It said that, in its experience, “members under investigation have retired, thus bringing matters to an end”.
A spokeswoman for Mr Flanagan says such a proposal is now being considered for inclusion in wider reforms that will follow on foot of the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.
“The question of either preventing an officer under investigation from retiring or having some leverage after retirement (in non-criminal cases) will be considered,” she said.
“However, there will be issues to be resolved such as how a sanction for a disciplinary breach can be imposed on a person who is no longer a Garda.”
Government sources said the measure is likely to be implemented and, while it will take some work, Mr Flanagan is “very keen” to see it through.
Separately, the Minister said he would like to see Gsoc cases where the officer concerned is retiring given priority. He did not reference any current cases underway.
“Yes, I believe it is important that due process take place and in the event of a complaint being made, particularly those of a serious nature, that Gsoc would have the resources to deal with the matter in a timely and appropriate manner.
“In response to your question as to retired persons being subject to sanction or retired persons being subject to rulings of Gsoc, this is an issue that will have serious legal consequences and I would be very keen to have that examined before making such a recommendation.”
“I would rather that every opportunity be taken to prioritise the case and have it dealt with in the form of due process.”
He also stressed the “really important, independent role of Gsoc”, which he said will “be given a greater level of independence” as the recommendations on the Commission of the Future of Policing are implemented over the next year.
The Cabinet recently approved the commission’s recommendation that a new, Independent Office of the Police Ombudsman will supersede Gsoc.