The overall objective of the Government’s policing commission should be to establish “why the Garda seems so prone to corruption, neglect, and inefficiency”, a leading expert has said.
Dermot Walsh said the body should be “wholly independent of government” and ideally appointed by, and report to, the Oireachtas.
Prof Walsh of University of Kent Law School is an author of multiple books and papers on policing and criminal justice in Ireland.
He told the Irish Examiner that the commission also needed to examine the Garda’s relationship with the Department of Justice and the Government, other State agencies, oversight bodies and the Oireachtas.
Prof Walsh said it was crucial that the remit of the review be inclusive and must include: Structure, mission, ethos, culture, organisation, procedures, functions, relationships with other bodies, recruitment, education, training, promotion, pay, terms and conditions of employment, governance, accountability, powers, duties, policies, and human rights.
He said it was important that it consider whether State security should continue to be a core part of the Garda remit. The gathering, processing and publication of crime statistics should also be included.
“Of course, these matters should not be examined as ends in themselves,” said Prof Walsh. “The overall object should be to establish why the Garda seems so prone to corruption, neglect and inefficiency across so many aspects so many years after the Morris reports, and what can be done to turn it around.”
He said commission membership should comprise international experts, combining practitioners such as police officers and oversight persons, human rights experts, academics and a lawyer. It should be chaired by and international expert in government and law.
He said the body should take submissions and hold hearings “around the country”, especially in areas that do not usually have a voice in policing matters.
“Hearings would also function as a focus for an informed, community-based, public debate on policing of a type that has never happened in this country,” said Prof Walsh.
He said the body should consult with a range of stakeholders, including the probation service, legal profession, probation service, voluntary sector, youth bodies, elderly and farmers. The review should take “at least two years”.
Prof Walsh said there should be a provision so that the commission can seek a High Court order to compel persons to attend or secure access to documentation.
He said the body should be “wholly independent of government” and that ideally is should be appointed by and report to the Oireachtas.
He said an implementation body will be needed: “Otherwise there is a very real risk that it will sit on a shelf and gather dust in the manner of so many worthy reports from official inquiries in this country”.
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