Fitzgerald backs GSOC despite report criticism

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said that she has confidence in the Garda Ombudsman after a report criticised it for initiating its own inquiry into suspicions its offices may have been bugged.

Fitzgerald backs GSOC despite report criticism

She said Judge John Cooke had produced an “evidence-based” report after there had been a lot of concern about whether the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission was bugged or not.

The 62-page report showed the commissioners had taken actions “in good faith” in investigating this but it showed there was no proof that surveillance of the agency had occurred.

There was also no finding of negligence against the agency, she noted.

Asked whether she had confidence in the commissioners with GSOC, Ms Fitzgerald said she did.

However, she noted that GSOC had not reported to the previous minister for justice, Alan Shatter, when it had suspicions its offices may have been bugged.

There was now a need for a “new culture” of cooperation between gardaí and GSOC, she said.

The issue of how GSOC’s concerns about bugging and its probe, which involved a British firm, were leaked also needed to be followed up, said Ms Fitzgerald.

“It is vital that there is strong public confidence in the Garda Síochána and the system of oversight of the Garda Síochána,” said Ms Fitzgerald.

“That is why it was so important to have an independent and rigorous examination of what were deeply disturbing allegations that GSOC had been subject to surveillance, especially in circumstances where it was suggested that such surveillance might have been carried out by the Garda Síochána.”

Ms Fitzgerald said she hoped both agencies could move on.

GSOC originally sited three security threats to its systems. These included a wifi device in the GSOC boardroom linked to an outside source, a UK 3G mobile network operating near its offices, and a concern that an office phone may have been bugged.

Judge Cooke ruled out the likelihood of the first two cases being security threats. On the third, he said this remained unexplained. At the time, a British security firm found a mysterious ring-back on the office phone. Judge Cooke said this remained “unexplained as a technical or scientific anomaly”.

However, there was “no evidence that the ring-back reaction was necessarily attributable to an offence or misbehaviour on the part of a member of the Garda Síochána”, the judge said.

Judge Cooke also said it was questionable as to whether further investigations about the suspected security threats to GSOC were justified.

The judge said he was confident, since starting his investigation, that steps had been taken by GSOC to increase the security around its equipment.

Its entire telephone system had been replaced, he said, but more security sweeps needed to be done at its offices

Clarity was also needed to revise the scope of GSOC conducting investigations at its own initiative, he said.

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