New unit to scrutinise garda investigations

Garda investigations in all divisions will be checked for errors by a new internal unit, it emerged today.

Garda investigations in all divisions will be checked for errors by a new internal unit, it emerged today.

The Garda Professional Standards Unit (GPSU) is being established in response to the reports of the Morris Tribunal, which exposed how gardaí in the isolated Donegal Division had framed two innocent men for murder, planted false explosives and lied about their activities.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell said the unit was a key part of the ongoing reform of the force under the 2005 Garda Act.

“The GPSU will enable An Garda Síochána to ensure that organisational efforts and initiatives are driven strategically and that value for money and international best practise in professional, ethical and human rights standards are maintained,” he said.

It is understood that one of the unit’s key roles will be to examine the investigation files in all Garda divisions and highlight any problems or lines of investigation that are being overlooked.

It will then make firm and appropriate recommendations for improvement where necessary.

The unit is not expected to encounter any resistance from the main garda associations.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said it would be discussing the issue at its national executive next week.

The GPSU will be headed by a Garda Chief Superintendent and will have nearly 30 staff in total.

Although Garda Headquarters had intended to grant more autonomy to garda divisions under its Strategic Management Initiative, the plan had to be re-assessed in the light of the damning Morris Tribunal report.

“The situation through 1996 to 1998 shows appalling management coupled with the manipulation of facts and circumstances in order to present to Garda Headquarters, and to the world at large, an untruthful appearance of honesty and integrity in the Donegal Garda Division,” it said.

The GPSU’s regular examination of Garda investigation files – which include witness statements, job sheets and crime conference notes – are intended to prevent such a scenario re-occurring.

Mr McDowell is also setting up a three-person Ombudsman Commission to deal with complaints against the Gardaí and a Garda Inspectorate, which will operate independently of the Gardaí.

The Morris Tribunal found that there were very poor communications between the Department of Justice and Garda Headquarters during the Donegal scandal.

The Garda Inspectorate will report directly to the Minister for Justice on garda operational policies and strategies.

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