We use cookies to collect and analyse information on site performance and usage to improve and customise your experience, where applicable. View our Cookies Policy. Click Accept and continue to use our website or Manage to review and update your preferences.

Backing for continued garda role in prosecutions
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris Pic: RollingNews.ie

08 Feb 2024 / policing Print

Backing for continued garda role in prosecutions

A report on the role of An Garda Síochána in the public prosecution system has called for more resources for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) to allow it to potentially become involved in more cases at District Court level.

The report of the high-level group, chaired by Dermot McCarthy (former Secretary General to the Government), comes out against the “radical” approach of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, which proposed removing all authority for making prosecution decisions from the gardaí.

The group’s report says that such an approach risks losing some of the strengths of the current system.

Additional cases

Instead, it proposes that the ODPP be supported in identifying additional types of cases that should be submitted to it for a decision on whether to initiate a prosecution and provide legal representation in the District Courts, both in Dublin and outside Dublin.

The types of cases that can be dealt with summarily by gardaí are set out in section 8 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005.

“Identification of additional types of cases will require analysis of information from An Garda Síochána and the courts to ensure [that] appropriate capacity and investment are allocated to ODPP to ensure such a service can be provided on a national basis,” the report states.

It also called for support for the ODPP in “substantially enhancing oversight” of the exercise of prosecution functions by An Garda Síochána in the name of the DPP, adding that this capacity cannot come from existing resources.

“The challenge is to take steps to ensure public confidence in the probity of prosecution decisions that substantially will still need to be conducted by An Garda Síochána,” the group says, adding that the systems required to facilitate this are not in place at the moment.

Regular reviews

It also recommends that An Garda Síochána should introduce greater oversight of, and better support for, those making prosecution decisions, and those conducting prosecutions at court – including ‘court presenters’.

The group calls for improved record-keeping at An Garda Síochána, and regular internal reviews of prosecution decisions – including the recording of reasons for a non-prosecution decision.

The report also urges support for the force in developing better training for those working on public prosecutions, as well as “a career-progression pathway” for An Garda Síochána members specialising in such work.

The group calls for the establishment of a Summary Prosecutions Reform Steering Committee to plan for, and implement, the proposed changes.

The Government yesterday (7 February) announced that Niamh O’Donoghue (former Secretary General of the Department of Social Protection) would chair the committee.


The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said that the review group's choice of model reflected its conclusion that radical changes to the public-prosecution system would not result in a major re-allocation of garda resources to other policing duties.

She added that the model chosen would re-inforce public confidence that prosecution decisions were taken for the right reasons, and conducted with "the requisite levels of expertise and professionalism".

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that the force would work with its parners in the criminal-justice system to deliver the group's recommendations.

He stated that a new Court Management Office would be set up in every garda division to help to ensure "consistent delivery of court-management services", with oversight by senior gardaí in each division, and national standardised processes.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Catherine Pierse also pledged to work with other institutions to implement the proposed changes.

"It is fundamental to the administration of justice that members of the public can have confidence that this summary-prosecution service is delivered in a way that is independent, fair, effective and consistent," she stated.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland