Garda station spot checks sought

The head of the Garda Inspectorate has said it needs to have the power to conduct unannounced spot checks on Garda stations and “not to have to make an appointment to visit”.

Chief Inspector Mark Toland said it wants to focus more on human rights issues and in order to do that, it had to be able to visit Garda stations at a time of its own choosing.

He told the Oireachtas justice committee that current legislative proposals contain such a provision but stipulate that any such visit would require the prior permission of the justice minister.

Mr Toland said any such condition “should not be included” and that it would be “impracticable”.

He welcomed a previous recommendation by the committee for the inspectorate to have the power.

Asked by Fianna Fáil’s Jack Chambers did the body not want to be able to conduct “real-time” inspections and not just “retrospective” ones, Mr Toland said:

We want to look at human rights areas. That might involve on-the-spot inspections, so we’d like to go unannounced. We are an inspection body.

Sinn Féin TD and committee chair Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said it was “very strongly of the view” that the inspectorate should have such power, saying it was “absolutely essential”.

Mr Toland replied: “It would enhance our ability and we would not have to make an appointment to visit. It is important to do it in real time.”

He said Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan had indicated he might not need to give approval.

Mr Toland said if there were issues of State security, where there was “very sensitive material”, then the ministerial provision could apply.

Commenting on the inspectorate’s recent report, entitled Responding to Child Sexual Abuse, Mr Toland said he was “disappointed” that specialist child centres, recommended in a 2012 report, had not been set up, even on a trial basis.

These centres would provide medical examinations, joint garda and social worker interviews, and therapeutic supports in one location.

He said it had envisaged two pilots in 2012 and that, in total, it would consider “three to four” centres for the country to be enough.

He said these could be based in Galway, Cork, and Dublin. He said there was one centre in the North.

He said people would travel if they knew they were going to a centre of excellence with all the necessary services.

“It is not right to travel to different locations for different services,” he said.

Sometimes children are travelling all over the country.

He expressed confidence in the new implementation group that the Government had set up on the back of the report.

“There’s a commitment to get the centres up and running and pretty quickly.”

He said gardaí and officials with Tusla, the child and family agency, could use existing facilities, at least at first.

Mr Toland said pre-sanction reports, before sentencing, should be mandatory, in which the Probation Service could recommend how a sex offender should be monitored after release.

He said of the 250 cases it examined, only 160 had post-release supervision orders, without which a released offender would not be subject to specific multi-agency monitoring.

He said only 15% of all convicted sex offenders came under this multi-agency Soram project.



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