Gardaí can make complaints to GSOC as powers increased

The powers of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) are to be increased after the Cabinet decided to replace the confidential recipient process by allowing serving gardaí to make their complaints directly to GSOC itself.

In the wake of the ongoing whistleblowers controversy Mr Kenny told the Dáil the Government had agreed to amend the Protected Disclosures Bill to allow serving members of the force to approach GSOC directly on allegations of corruption or malpractice.

The bill is expected to pass through the Oireachtas over the next couple of months and in the meantime the Cabinet decided to appoint an interim confidential recipient in the wake of the dismissal of Oliver Connolly last week.

The new recipient is expected to be named within the next seven days and will handle all serving garda complaints until the legislation is enacted by the summer.

Mr Kenny told the Dáil that recent events had served to weaken and undermine public confidence in the justice system and the oversight of the gardaí was an issue of great importance for everyone.

He said the garda oversight system must be modernised and reformed.

The Oireachtas Justice Committee has also been tasked with reviewing the powers of GSOC and it is expected to examine issues such as the police watchdog’s access to the PULSE system and whether the commission should also have oversight on the Garda commissioner, which is the norm in most other European countries.

During the GSOC investigation into the Garda handling of international drugs dealer Kieran Boylan, the commission complained its investigative work was hampered by its inability to access the Pulse system.

It was a comment by a senior garda in relation to the Boylan case which first raised GSOC’s suspicions that its Dublin headquarters may have been bugged.

Mr Kenny said the review carried out by Mr Justice Cooke into the alleged bugging of the GSOC offices may also make recommendations as may the Guerin review announced yesterday.

“My intention is that the Government will bring forward proposals for the reform of the current Garda oversight and complaints systems by the summer. It is my clear view that the current system is not working as effectively as our citizens and our police force deserve and our democracy requires. It must be modernised and reformed,” he said.

Last week Justice Minister Alan Shatter sacked Oliver Connolly over his alleged comments to garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe. The recipient system has been used 12 times since it came into operation six years ago.

Mr Connolly, a barrister, had been appointed to the role in June 2011.

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