The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has expressed concern about the launch of a Garda Anti-Corruption Unit "without any consultation".
In its annual report for 2020, published today (25 June), GSOC said that there was a risk of overlapping investigations into misconduct by both bodies. GSOC added that it believed that it should be aware of all suggestions of misconduct within the force.
“To have the Garda Anti-Corruption Unit investigate potential criminal conduct by its colleagues without reference to independent oversight flies in the face of the spirit of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland report, and the basic principle that gardaí should not be investigating themselves without scrutiny,” GSOC said.
The body's report shows an 11% increase in the number of complaints made to GSOC last year — 1,955, compared with 1,756 in 2019. It believes that increased interaction between members of the public and gardaí tasked with enforcing COVID-19 restrictions was a factor in the increase.
GSOC says 295 complaints mentioned COVID-19, with the most common linked to the enforcement of travel restrictions and interactions with gardaí at checkpoints.
"Discourtesy, concerns about social distancing, and lack of PPE equipment were the main causes of complaint,” the report said.
The commission found that 50 of these complaints could be admitted for investigation, with 24 still open at the end of the year.
Nkencho probe continues
Throughout 2020, GSOC received 43 referrals from the Garda Commissioner under section 102 (1) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, where the conduct of a member of the force may have resulted in the death of, or serious harm to, a person or persons.
These included a referral after the death, on 30 December 2020, of George Nkencho, who died after being shot by a garda. An investigation into the circumstances of the shooting is continuing.
The report shows that 27 files were referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), resulting in 71 directions for prosecution, 14 directions for no prosecution, and seven decisions pending.
19 protected disclosures were made to GSOC by members or employees of an Garda Síochána, and 77 sanctions were imposed by the Garda Commissioner on individual gardaí following complaints to or investigations by GSOC.