THE head of Clare’s garda division has criticised the process whereby gardaí have to investigate each other when complaints relating to garda discipline are made to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.
Chief Superintendent John Kerin of the Clare Garda Division also said he is aware of incidents where false allegations were made to GSOC against members of the force in the county.
“Neither myself nor superintendents are overly happy with the situation whereby members of the public make a complaint to GSOC regarding garda misconduct and we end up investigating 95% to 96% of these complaints, even though they were made to GSOC. I appreciate that GSOC review the investigations but, in fairness to members of the public who have issues with the gardaí, I feel those complaints should be dealt with by GSOC and not garda officers to ensure the integrity of the investigation and that gardaí are not investigating gardaí.”
The GSOC Annual Report 2015, published this week, showed that more than 4,000 allegations were made to the office nationally last year. Of these, 93 were against gardaí in the Clare division. The figure is down from 125 the previous year and 121 in 2013 and is the lowest number of allegations relating to gardaí here in the past five years.
“I’m delighted that the numbers are reducing, down from 136 in 2011 to 93 last year and, hopefully, this will reduce further in the coming year. We take all complaints seriously. They are all investigated to an outcome. Whether they are favourable to the complainant or the gardaí, they are all investigated.
“I think it is fair to say that some complaints arise from a misunderstanding from the member of the public in relation to the powers that gardaí have and sometimes we are responsible for not explaining fully what our powers are and their limitations,” he said.
“I would be very unhappy about a small number of complaints that I know for a fact are untrue. All complaints have to be accepted and investigated, even where false allegations have been made against gardaí. Any complaint regarding abuse of authority or excessive use of authority, I, and my management team, take these very seriously,” Chief Superintendent Kerin stated.
“I would be reasonably happy, as happy as any chief superintendent can be, that gardaí in Clare try to do their job in a humane, decent and practical manner. There are times when we don’t meet the desired standards and where we find out about that, we try to address that as best we can,” he added.
“My primary difficulty with the process whereby gardaí investigate other gardaí is from a public perception point of view. When GSOC came in, the public were of the view that these investgations would be done by GSOC,” Chief Superintendent Kerin stated.
According to the GSOC report, it received 1,996 complaints nationally last year, of which 1,102 were admissible. The complaints contained 4,269 allegations, the most common matters of which were abuse of authority and neglect of duty. After the Dublin Metropolitan Regions, Kilkenny-Carlow, Galway, Donegal and Limerick were the divisions with the highest numbers of allegations.
However, the report stressed, “it follows that there is likely to be a higher number of complaints from larger, or busier, divisions and also that not all complaints were deemed admissible”.
More than one third of all complaints related to abuse of authority, a further 29% to neglect of duty and 12% to criminal offences. Nine percent were made based on discourtesy.
Of all admissable complaints, 41% (454) were investigated by gardaí, with a further 8% (87) investigated by gardaí under the supervision of GSOC.
The office of GSOC explained that “The Garda Síochána Investigating Officer appointed by the Garda Commissioner to investigate a matter under the Garda Síochána Discipline Regulations 2007 may not be from the same district as the garda being complained of, according to the protocols between GSOC and An Garda Síochána”.
They may, however, be from the same garda district. “They may not be in the direct operational chain of command or in the same specialist unit as the person complained of and any other potential conflict of interest should be declared to the (Garda Síochána) appointing officer. GSOC may request that a different GSIO be appointed if it considers that there is a conflict of interest which may prejudice the outcome of the investigation,” a spokesperson for GSOC clarified.