Report urges radical reform of `bureaucratic, inflexible' Garda

 

THE Garda Siochana is "highly-bureaucratic, inflexible, with a preference for information rather than action", according to a report being considered by a Government-appointed review group.

"There is little delegation, a concentration of power in a heavily centralised bureaucratic headquarters and few are regularly held to account for the success or otherwise of their actions," it says.

The report recommends the most radical reform of the Garda since it was set up, encompassing legal and structural change.

It is a draft of a final study to be presented to the Minister for Justice, Ms Owen, this month. Headed by industrialist Mr Tony Barry, the group will meet next week to complete its recommendations and few amendments are expected.

Legal changes suggested include an end to the right to silence of people questioned by gardai about serious crime, and an increase in the period for which they can be detained without charge.

Suggestions on structural change include the appointment of civilians to top personnel and finance posts in the Garda and the use of civilians as managers in Garda stations.

The report describes a force burdened by red tape, restricted by lack of control over resources and hampered by legal constraints.

It reveals that only 1.7 per cent of the force - 187 of its 10,750 members - is employed in specialist anti-drug units despite suggestions that up to 80 per cent of crime in some parts of the State is drugs-related.

A review of Garda recruitment, pay and promotions is advised and the recommendations of an earlier report repeated: the Garda Commissioner should be given greater powers and many Garda functions not directly related to policing should be handed over to other agencies.

A reform of the force's internal systems is needed and its problems will not be solved, as expected, by the introduction of information technology. The technology plan will "make matters worse" the report says, by further overwhelming management with information on which they will be less and less able to take action".

The report does not recommend the establishment of a police authority, saying this might increase political interference and only produce "an additional layer of bureaucracy".

The draft report was prepared by the management consultants Deloitte and Touche. Members of the review group include the Garda Commissioner, Mr Patrick Byrne, who was committed by the Government to following the group's recommendations when he took office last year.