Watchdog should vet Garda ‘under own volition’

THE independent police watchdog should be able to examine Garda practices and policies without having to get the permission of the Justice Minister, according to the state’s human rights body.

This issue has been in the spotlight after it emerged that an application in 2007 by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) to the then Minister for Justice, Brian Lenihan, to examine Garda policing at the Corrib gas project was rejected.

Following the recent controversy over the so-called Garda “rape tape” there have been further calls by protest groups and civil rights bodies for an examination of garda policing of anti-Shell protests to be examined by the policing watchdog.

In a report to the UN Committee Against Torture, the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) called on the Government to “reinforce the powers of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission so that it can instigate a review of practice, policy or procedure in An Garda Síochána for the purpose of preventing complaints or to reduce the incidence of such complaints of its own volition”.

The call is one of a raft of recommendations in the report, which has been submitted to the UN committee as it prepares to examine Ireland’s human rights record in meeting its international obligations.

“Everyone is entitled to protection from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, including in places of detention,” said IHRC president Dr Maurice Manning.

“Regrettably, Ireland is failing to meet these obligations.”

The report recommends:

* An independent statutory inquiry into child protection following deaths of children in state care.

* Widening the mandate of the Ombudsman for Children immediately to include children detained in St Patrick’s Institution.

* Addressing deficiencies in the vetting of staff in children detention schools.

* The review of the Thornton Hall prison project should take into account best international practice which supports smaller prisons.

* A reliable and independently verifiable inspection system to deal with extraordinary renditions.

* Greater human rights safeguards for mentally ill patients in detention.

* Improvement in the conditions at some units of the Central Mental Hospital without delay.

The report calls for the implementation of the GSOC inquiry into the death of Terence Wheelock by the gardaí and the minister for justice.

It also wants the report into the death of Gary Douche in Mountjoy Prison to be published and implemented.

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