Analysis: Almost 2,000 complaints made against gardaí in 2017

Marita Moloney

Almost 2,000 complaints were made against the gardaí in 2017, a new report shows.

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission's (GSOC) 2017 Annual Report was released today and details statistics on complaints received and closed by the garda watchdog in the 12-month period.

1,949 complaints in total were received by GSOC in 2017 which marks a 10% rise on the previous year.

There were around 4,500 allegations made within those complaints against members of the gardaí.

The majority of complaints were made to garda divisions in Dublin, Limerick, and Cork.

24 referrals were received from the force in cases where an officer's conduct may have resulted in the death or serious harm to someone.

During their investigations, GSOC also found practices which indicate a poor quality service to the public.

The most common allegations were attributed to an officer abusing their authority, neglecting their duty, or being discourteous, as well as non-fatal offences (allegations of a criminal offence listed in the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997, for example, assault, harassment or false imprisonment).

1,330 cases were found to have at least one admissable allegation, while 586, or 30% of complaints, were deemed completely inadmissible.

This was largely down to complaints not constituting misbehaviour, as well as some complaints being made outside the 12-month time limit between when the incident is alleged to have occurred and when the complaint was made.

In other cases, allegations may have been deemed "frivolous or vexatious" or outside the control and direction of An Garda Síochána.

Of admissible complaints, the majority were discontinued as there was no independent evidence to prove the incident occurred or the complaint was deemed frivolous or vexatious.

In other cases, complaints were found to not be in breach of regulations, the allegation was withdrawn, sanctions were applied, the complainant failed to engage with an investigation or the garda in question has resigned or retired.

In three instances, the complaint was sent to the DPP but no prosecution was directed. GSOC does not provide figures for cases which are being prosecuted from 2017 as they are still open.

Cases

There are a variety of cases detailed in the GSOC report, with one woman complaining about the behaviour of a uniformed garda who approached her in a pub.

He is said to have made comments about the woman's hair, placed his garda hat on her head and posed for photographs with her friends.

She reported feeling uncomfortable when the garda placed his hand on her and remarked that another person in the pub had reportedly seen the garda drinking alcohol earlier in the day.

Sanctions were applied in this case, whereby an apology and financial sum were issued.

Another referral to GSOC was made in February 2017 after a car, which gardaí had attempted to stop, crashed. Gardaí pursued the car after it failed to stop, which led the vehicle to entering a roundabout the wrong way, hit another vehicle, and crash into a wall.

During the chase, the driver tried to swap clothes with the passenger to confuse gardaí about who was driving. This led to a loss of control and the subsequent crash.

The complaint was discontinued after no evidence was found that the garda vehicle had been in contact with the car which crashed.

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