‘Super’ Garda units to tackle child abusers and gangland

Two new ‘super’ Garda units are being set up — one to target organised gangs and another to tackle child abuse, domestic and sexual violence, and human exploitation.

They are among a raft of structural changes announced by Garda commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan following a number of reports, particularly a highly critical Garda Inspectorate audit last November.

Ms O’Sullivan also detailed the allocation of 34 new superintendents and six chief superintendents and, in a surprise step, the transfer of an additional 53 senior officers to district, divisional, and national units.

The new Garda units include:

A beefed-up gang unit combining the Garda National Drugs Unit and the Organised Crime Unit;

A new Child Protection and Human Exploitation Uni, including the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit and headed, for the first time, by a chief superintendent;

A Strategic Transformation Office to implement reforms;

Risk Compliance and Continuous Improvement offices in each region to monitor implementation of new initiatives

The merging of the drugs unit and Organised Crime Unit — recommended by the Garda Inspectorate — is welcomed in some quarters as there is a heavy overlap in the gangs the two units target. “Some people mightn’t want it, but it makes sense as both units are targeting similar criminal groups,” said one insider.

The drugs unit has a garda strength of around 55 and the Organised Crime Unit has almost 40, giving an expanded overall strength to tackle gangs.

The unit will be headed by Detective Chief Superintendent Michael O’Sullivan — currently in the Traffic Bureau and formerly of the drugs unit. It will have four detective superintendents.

The Child Protection and Human Exploitation Unit follows strong criticisms in the Inspectorate’s report. The unit will be headed by a detective chief superintendent.

The developments come as legislation strengthening the powers of the Garda Ombudsman passed all stages in the Oireachtas yesterday.

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