The Garda watchdog has welcomed improved levels of co-operation from members of the force in the past year but claims there is room for further improvement.
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission said gardaí had responded to almost 94% of requests made for documentation within the statutory time limit of 30 days in 2015, which GSOC said represented “a significant improvement in compliance” compared to the previous two years.
Despite such progress, GSOC also said it remained a concern that most responses came back quite close to the 30-day limit.
The average time taken to receive a response for mostly routine and mandatory documentation last year was 22 days.
“It is quite a long time, considering that the majority of information requested through this system is of a standard nature,” said GSOC in its latest annual report.
GSOC also expressed concern that staffing levels still needed to be improved, especially as amendments to the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which extended the time limit for making complaints as well as extending GSOC’s powers of investigation, are likely to lead to an increased workload.
The commission welcomed what it described as “the increasingly positive reception” by gardaí to observations it had made on the conduct of the force during last year.
However, it also expressed concern that in a survey of public opinion, only half of respondents expressed confidence in GSOC’s ability to resolve problems.
It also revealed that it had received complaints from four Garda whistleblowers last year under protected disclosure legislation. Three of the cases were deemed to warrant further investigation.
Overall, the number of formal complaints made against gardaí last year decreased by 11%, according to the annual report.
A total of 1,996 complaints against members of the force were reported to GSOC in 2015 — 246 fewer than the previous year — which contained 4,269 allegations.
GSOC said the types of allegations were similar to other years with about one third relating to abuse of authority and one third to neglect of duty.
Some 1,102 cases contained at least one admissible allegation with 385 relating to possible criminal offences, such as assault, by gardaí.
The highest number of allegations were made about gardaí in the Dublin Metropolitan Region and the Garda divisions of Kilkenny-Carlow, Galway, Donegal, and Limerick. The smallest number were in Cork West and Cork North.
GSOC stressed that it was important to note that there is likely to be a higher number of complaints from larger and busier divisions.
There was also a reduction in the number of cases referred to GSOC by An Garda Síochána arising out of situations where it appeared that the conduct of a garda may have resulted in the death or serious injury to a person.
A total of 52 such incidents were reported last year — down eight on 2014 figures. The cases included 15 incidents linked to fatalities.
The Garda watchdog body also launched 12 investigations in the public interest during 2015 up from four in the previous year.
Two of the latest cases were initiated by GSOC while the remainder were at the request of the minister for justice.
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