An Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission
POLICE POWER EXCESS
“Hear me, all you gods and all goddesses too,
As I proclaim what the heart inside me urges.
Let no lovely goddess-and no god either-
Try to fight against my strict decree
All submit to it now, so all the more quickly,
I can bring this violent business to an end”.
“The Iliad”, Book Eight, ‘The Tide of Battle Turns’ Homer.
Power is a great thing for those who know how to use it and who know their limitations. Otherwise it corrupts and, absolute power corrupts absolutely. The social contract is implied on the basis of our chosen way of life, and equality indicates the service that we have chosen to make to our community. In return our community respects and protects that commitment.
Part of that respect and commitment is our observance of the rule of law with due regard to rights emanating from that law and other rights that pre-exist before the law. When there is any misconduct in this social contract, who decides?
It is all up to us humans. Method is required. We have police to protect our life, property and peace. We collectively give them adequate power to do that job for us. We entrust them to do that job conscientiously, honestly and loyally. Their executive powers are subject to our rights and duties.
We know that all humans fail at some time or another. Human failures threaten society when not addressed. Failures become acceptable and spread quickly when not cured like a disease. The malady can be easily cured with a good effective, efficient and sympathetic designated due process.
Police are part of that process. In the Republic of Ireland, An Garda Siochana assume police duties in the context of “The Constitution of Ireland, 1937”.
We may ask who polices them. In Ireland that is an institution known as the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission. They oversee An Garda Siochana. We call that “Democracy” and “The Rule of Law” in operation.
If you have any complaint which gives you concern about how you have been treated by a member of An Garda Siochana, whether as citizen or otherwise, or indeed, by any member of a lawful public democratic institution in Ireland you may need our assistance.
Remember too, members of An Garda Siochana are citizens. They may be accused wrongfully of misconduct and require a defence.
Call us at 00 353 (0) 187 222 00 for a free introductory consultation with Mr. Anthony Conleth Pendred. BCL. MA (MISC), Solicitor. Mr.Pendred is a former member of An Garda Siochana (1974-1987).
Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission
This is an independent policing oversight body whose statutory duty is to promote public confidence by demonstrating impartiality and independence in its work and decisions. Its objective of resolving complaints is the efficient and effective process in the achievement of the statutory objective. That objective is to promote confidence in that process. Its work is to respond to complaints and, in particular, misconduct. It must act efficiently and effectively with fairness and do so to promote public confidence. It approaches matters with a required gender balance, with fairness and sensitivity at its core. Policing with the consent of the community is a core principle.
It operates independently of the Garda Siochana and other elements of the Criminal Justice System.
The GSOC has full independent police powers. It may gather evidence and furnish it to the Director of Public Prosecutions. It may deal with all issues criminal or disciplinary and has a remit to extend to general management and direction of An Garda Siochana except for Security of the State. However, front-line day to day management remains the responsibility of An Garda Siochana.
Financial responsibility for the GSOC rests with the Secretary-General of the Department of Justice.
Operation and Function
The GSOC is located in Dublin, Cork and Longford. It delegates its functions to professional staff who may take complaints by post, telephone or electronically. The Chief Executive is the Director of Administration who oversees the highest standard of customer service and governance. Three Commissioners discharge the full function of the GSOC.
The GSOC should function in a deliberative manner decided by a majority of three by consensus, who should act in a collegiate manner. The three are suitably qualified and experienced persons in the service of a skilled legal team.
The role of the GSOC is to gather evidence on any admissible complaint and to submit it to the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Commissioner of An Garda Siochana in consideration of whether it is a criminal or disciplinary matter. Decisions are to be taken on the basis of empirical data accumulated over time. It requires staff to undergo an Intensive Investigation Training Program in Portsmouth and King’s Inns, including techniques in crime investigation, family liaison and interviewing techniques to deal with nearly 2,500 cases per year. There are annual meetings as an outreach and to monitor the emerging shape and character of the GSOC. Inspect the protocols: www.gardaombudsman.ie
Statutory Power and Jurisdiction
The GSOC investigates complaints. There may be one or more allegations in a complaint. The statutory obligation of the GSOC is to investigate allegations of
- a) Abuse of authority
- b) Assault (non-fatal offences)
- c) Misconduct
- d) Neglect of Duty
- e) Discourtesy
It also investigates less serious matters involving criminal acts of members of An Garda Siochana which are conducted by Designated Officers. Service complaints about the service of An Garda Siochana may not amount to misconduct. There are pre-admission inquiries before formal admittance of a complaint and clarification may be called for or given by telephone. They may be due to disrespectful behaviour. These may be dealt with administratively by Superintendents. Garda Superintendents must understandably always give priority to operational and administrative matters. Front-line supervisors effect discipline. The public have a certain expectation of An Garda Siochana to react positively to their complaint whether it is criminal or disciplinary in nature. The appointment of a Designated Officer ensures this in the circumstances. Investigations should always address credibility gaps by accurate and explanatory information being available to those involved and to the public. Reference is made to the Garda Siochana (Discipline Regulations) 2007 in these matters. Informal resolution is available by summary process on agreement between the parties. A veto to an informal resolution exists. Section 87-90 of the 2005 Act refers.
So, referring back to the introduction, Zeus the god in that book, with the greatest power rules absolutely and all other gods and godesses fear to challenge him. Consequently, he is the ‘only’ judge of himself – a judge in his own cause! Our constitution protects citizens from this abuse of authority. Zeus or any ruler’s historic and contemporary reputation, especially in a democracy, suffers and will suffer as a result of this breach of fundamental principle of law. He will not command the respect of all of his subjects.
Respect for An Garda Siochana is re-enforced by the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission because they, who have sworn allegiance to uphold the Constitution of Ireland, 1937 are prepared to accept the oversight of that institution as part of their conditions of office. They agree therefore, through this institution, to be overseen by the people of Ireland, not just every five years, but daily during the course of their professional life too.
Fortunately, facts speaks for themselves and if Garda misconduct is proved, the aggrieved citizen and community will require that matter to be investigated efficiently and effectively to maintain the highest standard expected of An Garda Siochana with due regard to the facts of each individual case.
Call us at +353 (0) 1 872 2200 for professional advice and we will be happy to assist you.