Garda to cut whistleblower action threat

An Garda Síochána has committed to removing threats of disciplinary action against whistleblowers driven by “malicious intent” after the Policing Authority called on it to do so.

Garda to cut whistleblower action threat

The authority also said the Garda Protected Disclosure Policy “does not actively encourage” gardaí to raise concerns about wrongdoing.

In addition, it said the power to initiate a probe should not rest solely with the Garda commissioner.

In a review of the Garda policy, the authority said that the organisation was “incorrect” in law in making a threat of disciplinary action, stating that, under the Protected Disclosure Act 2014, the motivation of the person concerned was “irrelevant”.

The Garda Protected Disclosure Policy sets down the process to be used by Garda whistleblowers who want to raise such concerns.

In its review, the Policing Authority said the Garda policy contained a number of welcome provisions, including a focus on the alleged wrongdoing rather than the person making the disclosure.

However, it had a number of concerns.

Currently, the Garda policy states: “It should be noted that appropriate disciplinary action may be taken against any worker who is found to have raised a concern or raised a disclosure with malicious intent.”

The authority pointed out that the relevant legislation states that the motivation is “irrelevant”.

The authority said disciplinary action in such cases “could amount to penalisation”.

It said the reference to bringing disciplinary action against a worker who raises a disclosure with malicious intent should be deleted.

An Garda Síochána has said that the provision on disciplinary action would be changed as recommended and that alternative wording would be inserted.

The Policing Authority also said the Garda policy “does not actively encourage workers to raise concerns about wrongdoing or explain the value of protected disclosures to an organisation”.

The authority recommended that the policy be amended to “confirm management’s commitment” to actively encourage the making of protected disclosures — something An Garda Síochána has committed to do.

The review also recommends:

  • That the policy should explain how it applies to reserve garda, who are currently excluded;
  • That a full and comprehensive explanation be provided of what disclosures are protected by the legislation;
  • That An Garda Síochána review where the protected disclosure recipient should be located amid concerns about it being within Garda HR and that one of the two recipients is a chief superintendent;
  • That it strengthen controls to protect the identity of a discloser;
  • That the policy make clear the availability of employee assistance supports to both the discloser and respondent.
  • That the policy be amended to allow for a review of the outcome of investigations.

The authority welcomed the Garda commitment to review and amend its policy in line with the authority’s recommendations, but said the changes should take “no longer than one month”.

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