Gardaí, furious at being excluded from the Criminal Justice Victims of Crime Act enacted last November, claim they are being treated like second-class citizens.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan was yesterday assured the Garda Representative Association wholeheartedly agreed with the legislation and the improved rights for victims.
But GRA president Ciarán O’Neill, at the GRA annual conference in Wexford yesterday, said he couldn’t understand how gardaí were exempted from benefiting from the legislation.
“Minister, can you explain to me how a garda can get shot at, or stabbed; or gets attacked with a metal baseball bat and yet they are not victims?
“However, my wife’s car door was damaged recently and she was classed as a victim,” he said.
Under the legislation, victims have several rights which include information on victim support services, being kept informed of the progress of the investigation, and an assessment of their protection needs and measures to safeguard them from further victimisation or intimidation.
The GRA president also called for mandatory jail sentences for assaulting gardaí.
On average, 12 gardaí are injured in attacks every week.
“The dangerous and demanding work we face each day deserves special recognition,” he said.
“Every day, our members report for duty unaware of the demands that will be placed upon them, or the dangers they will come up against.
“We need the protection of mandatory sentencing for all assaults on frontline emergency services.”
GRA delegates, meanwhile, also indicated prison sentences for assaults on gardaí were not of sufficient lengths to deter certain type of violence.
The association is proposing alterations to the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.
It is seeking a minimum six-months imprisonment for a minor assault on a garda and a minimum sentence of one year’s jail for assault causing harm, with at least a five-year sentence for assault causing serious harm.
Meanwhile, on a separate matter, Garda O’Neill pointed out that when the representative association was founded 40 years ago, female members of the force had been paid a different rate.
“Thankfully, that has been resolved but 40 years later, we still have an imbalance in the rates of pay for people doing the same job,” the GRA president pointed out to the minister.
“I am talking about the new recruits in An Garda Síochána and the two-tier pay system introduced by the last government which you were part of,” he told the minister.
“The financial emergency is over and these new members need to be brought in line with their colleagues.
The GRA received pay restoration after significant reductions during the recession.
However, cuts to allowances and subsistence rates have not yet been restored and the association demanded that should be done.
Mr Flanagan said he would take onboard the message that not enough was being done to help gardaí who had suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) brought about by serious incidents they had witnessed doing their job.
A survey conducted among members of the force by Dr Finian Fallon showed around one in six were suffering from some form of PTSD.
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