Number of garda members suspended trebles

The number of new cases involving gardaí being suspended from duty has jumped three-fold in the last three years.

Number of garda members suspended trebles

The number of new cases involving gardaí being suspended from duty has jumped three-fold in the last three years.

Official garda statistics show the biggest increase has taken place in the last year, with 31 new files opened.

This compared to 21 new cases in 2018, 15 in 2017 and 10 in 2016.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said the rise was “regrettable” but said it showed that the organisation was moving to address suspected wrongdoing.

There was a total of 42 gardaí suspended at the close of 2019, compared to 37 the previous year, 28 in 2017 and 17 the year before.

Figures provided by Garda HQ show that on 3 February last a total of 51 gardaí were suspended from duty, 41 of them male and five female.

The statistics are contained in the latest monthly report from the Garda Commissioner to the Policing Authority.

The rise in cases was briefly mentioned at last week’s public meeting between the commissioner and the authority, but the actual figures were not provided.

Gardaí can be suspended from duty in a range of circumstances, including where a commissioner was signalled he intends to dismiss the member under disciplinary regulations or before or after a garda is arrested for a suspected criminal offence.

When asked at the Policing Authority last week what the sharp rise in cases said about the organisation, Commissioner Harris replied: “In respect of the organisation it says we wish to address wrondoing and address wrondgdoing appropriately.”

He said that suspending a garda was “always a weighty decision to take”.

The garda chief said: “It has an impact and we recognised that, we only use it where we regard it as both necessary and proportionate to what we are dealing with.”

He added: “Regrettably those are the figures. One doesn’t want to see those figures increase, one would rather have no suspensions, but that’s not possible in an organisation of 14,500 garda mambers - we’ll never be in that situation.”

The commissioner said his approach was to try and deal with the suspension and get to an outcome as quickly as possible.

Drew Harris
Drew Harris

“It is regretted, but it is necessary," he said. "If one looks back to the Cultural Audit people watch how others are dealt with.

“People are very clever and can see wrongdoing for themselves and they take an organisational message when it’s not dealt with, so I’m firmly of the view these matters need to be dealt with.”

The commissioner they were setting up a new performance regime and a new misconduct system in the organisation, where the aim was to assist with welfare issues that members might have and provide early intervention.

This, he said, was to limit the risk of a “slippery slope” developing where welfare issues like addiction or financial debt, could result in more serious actions, even corruption.

He said the new Anti Corruption Unit he was setting up would deal with the more “egregious” cases and that this included inappropriate sexual relations by gardaí with vulnerable people and the impact that can have on people’s confidence in policing.

He said he had dealt with two such cases, but that he expected more given the experience in other police forces.

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