At least 21 serving gardaí have had barring orders issued against them

At least 21 serving gardaí have had barring orders issued against them

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said he wanted women to have confidence that the Gardai are protecting them from violence. File picture

At least 21 serving gardaí have had barring orders issued against them since January 2019. Of the 21 cases, nine are under criminal investigation for breaching the orders, as well as being subject to internal disciplinary enquiries.

Of the nine cases in which orders were breached, five “include elements of coercive control”, according to a Garda spokesperson.

While one member of the force is currently before the district court charged with an offence of coercive control, no member of An Garda Síochána has been convicted to date of such an offence.

Each case is reported to Garda Internal Affairs

Each case in which a serving member is a respondent for an order issued under the Domestic Violence Act 2018 has been reported to the force’s Internal Affairs unit.

“Members of An Garda Síochána are required to report the existence of an order, for which they are a respondent, under the Domestic Violence Act 2018 in accordance with An Garda Síochána’s Domestic Abuse Intervention Policy,” said a Garda spokesperson.

In July, the Irish Examiner revealed that barring orders had been secured against “at least 12” serving gardaí.

Barring orders are issued in civil proceedings in a family court and do not prevent a garda from carrying out a variety of duties, including handling domestic abuse complaints.

If an officer does not disclose an order’s existence, it can go, as one senior officer admitted, “below the radar”.

Records of domestic abuse allegations on the Garda Pulse information system rarely include the occupation of the alleged perpetrator. As a result, it is impossible to know how many gardaí serving officers are the subject of domestic abuse reports.

The force’s watchdog, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc), has received at least 300 complaints about domestic incidents involving serving officers since 2018.

However, that figure is not broken down into whether the complaint was about the way a domestic incident was handled in general, or whether serving officers were themselves involved in the domestic incident.

Policing Authority has raised issue with minister

The Policing Authority says it raised the issue of gardaí being the subject of barring orders with the justice minister twice in 2020. A spokesperson for the authority told the Irish Examiner: “Garda behaviour, discipline, and how complaints about them are handled have been an enduring theme of the Authority’s oversight.

“Gardaí are conferred with significant powers, and it is therefore critical that allegations against them are robustly and appropriately handled.

“The issue of allegations of Gardaí involvement in domestic abuse incidents has come to the attention of the Authority through feedback received from our NGO stakeholders and reported court proceedings.

“The matter was also raised in our reports to the Minister on the topic of policing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

There is a need for clearer and more comprehensive information on this important topic to allow the Garda Síochána and the public to have a full understanding of the scale of the issue.

“In addition to our ongoing oversight work, we have also had some early discussions with the Garda Inspectorate on their forthcoming inspection in relation to policing of domestic abuse, which is due to be carried out in 2022.

The next meeting between the Policing Authority and the Garda Commissioner will include discussions of handling of allegations of criminal behaviour, including domestic abuse.

The figures for barring orders come as Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said this week a “small team” under the Garda National Protective Services Bureau is examining cases involving allegations of domestic or sexual violence against a garda to ensure that they were being investigated fully and properly and that files were going to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

“We want to be sure we are providing a high-quality investigative service and are looking towards making sure our own organisation is in a position that it is protecting women and can have the confidence of women that it is protecting them from violence,” said Mr Harris.

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