Shatter to dump ‘deficient’ garda complaint system

The confidential recipient office to deal with internal complaints within the ranks of the gardaí is likely to be discontinued, according to Justice Minister Alan Shatter, who described the system as “deficient”.

The system was set up in 2007 to deal with allegations of misconduct in response to the Morris tribunal report. It was largely viewed as having failed two whistleblowers who went to it two years ago with allegations of widespread abuse of the penalty point system.

“I think it has been proved that the confidential recipient system does not work,” Mr Shatter told the Dáil yesterday.

“It is unfair to those who raise issues of complaint, and to the gardaí themselves, because where the Garda fully and properly investigates a matter, it is still open to question.”

Following the referral of their concerns to the Garda Ombudsman Commission last month, Mr Shatter said yesterday he would be changing the law on how the Ombudsman can investigate matters.

His department has been conducting a review of the rules for nine months, he said. “Following the enactment of the amending bill, I do not envisage that the office of confidential recipient will continue,” he said. “Time has proved that this is a defective procedure.”

During a separate debate, on the Protected Disclosures Bill (2013) that aims to protect whistleblowers, it was claimed that one garda was told Mr Shatter “will go after you” if he pursued concerns about how penalty points were being written off.

A transcript of a conversation two years ago between Garda Maurice McCabe and the confidential recipient with whom he raised concerns was read out in the Dáil by Independent TD Mick Wallace, who described it as “frightening”.

Mr Wallace read out two lines in which the confidential recipient said to Mr McCabe: “I’ll tell you something, Maurice, and this is just personal advice to you: If Shatter thinks you are screwing him, you are finished. If Shatter thinks ‘here’s this guy again, trying to put pressure, trying to go another route’, he’ll go after you.”

Independent TD Shane Ross said the legislation was “not satisfactory” and “what happened last week could happen again”. “The commissioner threatened to bring the PAC to court and then started mouthing about subordinates usurping his authority,” said Mr Ross.

“That is not a friendly climate or a warm climate into which a whistleblower is likely to enter. The same system is going to exist after that bill.”

Mr Shatter has referred the issue for investigation under Section 102 of the Garda Síochána Act, which allows the Ombudsman to investigate if a member of the force may have committed an offence or behaved in a manner that would justify disciplinary proceedings.

He chose not to refer it under Section 106, which would allow the Ombudsman to investigate practices, policies, and procedures of An Garda Síochána.

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