Authority prevented from checking if gardaí seeking promotions are implicated in Gsoc investigation

The Policing Authority is legally prevented from finding out if a senior officer it is considering for promotion is implicated in a whistleblower investigation being conducted by Gsoc, writes Security Correspondent Cormac O’Keeffe   

The authority said this means its appointment process is “less comprehensive” than it should gwbe and is seeking an amendment to the Protected Disclosure Act 2014 to allow Gsoc provide it with such information.

The authority has taken over the responsibility for promotions to senior ranks and has already filled a large number of positions at superintendent, chief superintendent, and assistant commissioner levels.

It raised the issue in a submission to the Department of Public Expenditure, which is reviewing the protected disclosure legislation.

In its submission, Gsoc also called for legal clarity on the matter saying that it can be precluded from sharing protected disclosure information “even though this may have significance” for the authority.

In its submission, the authority said it was having “problems” in operating its “clearance process” for appointing senior officers.

“As part of this clearance process, the Authority receives information from (amongst others) the Garda Siochana and Gsoc in relation to outstanding investigations regarding candidates who are being considered for appointment,” it said.

It said Gsoc did not consider it was in a position to provide the authority with information regarding outstanding investigations on foot of a protected disclosure.

“This means that the Authority may not be made aware of an ongoing investigation into an allegation against a candidate where that allegation was made on foot of a protected disclosure,” the submission said.

“As a result, the clearance process is less comprehensive than it would otherwise be. It can also mean that there may be material in the public domain about a protected disclosure that Gsoc can neither confirm nor deny.” The authority proposed that consideration be given to amending the 2014 Act to facilitate the sharing of such information.

Gsoc echoed the call in its submission, saying there was no “specific exemption” for the disclosure of personal data regarding protected disclosures.

It said it received requests from the Policing Authority regarding the suitability of applicants for promotion.

“However, having regard to the terms of S16 of the Protected Disclosure Act 2014, Gsoc may be precluded from sharing such information even though this may have significance for the Policing Authority.”

It called for a specific exemption disapplying the provisions in relation to the processing of data or for a test to balance potential competing rights.

Elsewhere, Gsoc wants the act amended to allow it investigate protected disclosures relating to security and intelligence.

It also wants to be able to delay notifying the Garda commissioner regarding a protected disclosure “where concerns may arise in relation to loss of evidence, witness interference or where notification may result in the identification of the discloser”.

In addition, Gsoc wants the right to conduct a protected disclosure investigation into “systemic and related matters”.

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