The Independent Review Mechanism found that in some cases, involving a questionable or accidental death, the shortcomings of investigating gardaí ranged “from the mildly perfunctory to the highly offensive”.
The IRM Overview Report said what while gardaí behaved appropriately in cases involving death through criminal violence, there was “a failure to show understanding of the near-endless anguish” of close family members in other cases of fatalities.
The review called for the failure to communicate with families to be made an explicit breach of discipline and subject to GSOC investigation.
“The absence of proper communication from investigating gardaí is the most recurrent issue running through the complaints,” the report said.
The report highlighted a range of issues in relation to inquests, including:
- That the small minority of fatalities of questionable origin housed the “most cogent, consistent and understandable cause of grievance” among complainants.
- In some historical cases statements provided by gardaí to coroners were “selectively chosen and less than full in their disclosure” — leaving the force open to charges of preventing public scrutiny of their investigations.
- People felt entirely excluded from any choices made as to witness selection, questioning or advocacy.
- In cases where families were suspicious of the adequacy of garda involvement in the investigation it had a “very deleterious consequence”.
The report said families at inquests should have an automatic right to legal assistance and that failure of gardaí to fully disclose material to coroners should be a potential breach of discipline.
The report said GSOC had a “rigid view” on the timeframe for admitting complaints and said loosening that view was “not merely justified but mandatory”.
As reported last month in the Irish Examiner, the review recommended that 70 of the complaints be subject to further action — including five independent inquiries.
The report recommended no action in 249 cases, due to the independence of GSOC and the DPP, the existence of either court rulings or forthcoming cases, cases being deemed Garda operational matters and cases outside the IRM remit.