The number of complaints received last year by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission rose by 10%, although there was a fall in the number of referrals from gardaí.
Gsoc’s annual report for 2017 reveals 22 disclosures were received, even though there is a reference to recruitment for the Protected Disclosures Unit being “at a lower number than was hoped for”, even though the report states the unit “may become some of the most important work undertaken by Gsoc”.
Gsoc sought 12 posts but was initially cleared by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for three investigators and two support staff.
The report states it was “unfortunate” no meeting took place between Gsoc and the department prior to the decision, although the hiring of four investigators and one support staff was later allowed.
The introduction to Gsoc’s 12th annual report refers to “the lack of capacity to deal with additional complex investigations or to initiate investigations which Gsoc would like to carry out”, in particular into accounts relating to the Garda College in Templemore.
It required the hiring of external people and, for the first time in Gsoc’s history, it had to seek the ‘special assistance’ of An Garda Síochána to undertake the investigation, alongside assistance from Revenue.
A total of 1,949 complaints were opened last year, up 10%, and containing 4,459 allegations. The three most common complaints were the conduct of investigations by gardaí, road policing incidents, and the conduct of arrests by gardaí.
The highest number of allegations was in the Dublin Metropolitan Region, followed by Limerick and Cork City.
While 1,330 cases were admitted for investigation, 586 complaints were deemed completely inadmissible, while 422 criminal investigations were opened.
Following the criminal investigations, 16 files were referred to the DPP, with 10 directions for prosecution. It includes gardaí to be prosecuted for assault, theft and, in one case, dangerous driving causing death.
In total, 1,702 complaints containing 4,155 allegations were closed in 2017.
Examples included one in which a woman complained about the behaviour of a uniformed garda in a pub. She claimed the garda sat between herself and one of her friends, placed his Garda hat on her head, and draped his arms around the shoulders of the two women while a friend took photographs.
A sergeant who had seen the garda eating in the smoking area of the pub that evening noticed the garda smelt of alcohol.
As for independent investigations following a death or serious harm, Gsoc received 24 referrals in 2017, compared with 51 in 2016. Seven related to fatalities, including three relating to road traffic incidents.
Gsoc cut the time taken to close cases in some investigations but in others, notably criminal investigations and informal resolutions, the length of time increased.
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