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Poor record-keeping' on police custody
Pic: RollingNews.ie

25 Feb 2022 / policing Print

Report finds ‘poor record-keeping' on police custody

A report from the Garda Síochána Inspectorate (GSI) has identified several concerns about the safety, care and treatment of persons held in garda custody.

The analysis found that, while garda members had a good understanding of the fundamental rights of people in custody, poor record-keeping meant that access to these rights could not always be verified.

The GSI also said that there was no “organisational vision or strategy” for the holding of people in custody, beyond adherence to the legal requirements. It welcomed, however, the appointment of an assistant commissioner to take charge of custody issues.

The report makes 41 recommendations – most of these related to an Garda Síochána, but 14 for the Department of Justice.

Paper-based records

The GSI expressed disappointment that some recommendations made in previous reports – such as developing electronic custody records, and establishing an independent custody visiting scheme – had not been implemented.

It pointed out that custody records were paper-based and not collated centrally, and that there was no definitive figure for the number of persons in custody in garda stations during any given period.

The report identified concerns in relation to how some people were searched, how force was used and monitored, and how records were kept.

“It was also the case that the rights of children and vulnerable adults were not always safeguarded, and the needs of those with intellectual disabilities or poor mental health were not always identified and met,” said Mark Toland (GSI chief inspector).

Facilities plan

The GSI recommends that custody policies, practices and procedures be consolidated into a single, publicly available document.

The report also calls for a plan to be developed for custody facilities, as it found that the standard of facilities visited during this inspection ranged from modern, purpose-built custody suites to those that were “unsafe and not secure”.

The inspectorate also found that there were few interventions aimed at diverting people from further offending.

It called for a 2015 recommendation from the Expert Group on the Mental Health Act to be implemented. The group had said that gardaí should be given a specific power to remove a child believed to be suffering from a mental disorder to a place where an age-appropriate assessment could be performed.

The study, which was carried out before the COVID-19 pandemic, included unannounced visits to garda stations.

Bill on garda powers

The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee welcomed the report, adding that its recommendations would be “fully considered” as part of work on the Garda Síochána (Powers) Bill.

This will set out the rights of persons in custody – including the right to rest, the right to medical attention, and the right of access to a lawyer – and will also include special measures for children, and those who may have impaired capacity.

The Department of Justice has also written to the Garda Commissioner to ask him to outline how he plans to progress the recommendations in the report.

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