Law Society of Ireland urges reform for the future of policing

Community policing, restorative justice among key recommendations.

The Law Society of Ireland has recommended an increased community policing role for the Gardaí in a recent submission to the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.

“Solicitors, in their representation of victims of crime as well as in criminal defence, can offer a unique perspective on policing,” said Law Society of Ireland Director General Ken Murphy.  

“We know that focussed and strategic community policing has several benefits, not least restoring public confidence in the Gardaí while also acting as a deterrent to potential offenders. Rather than simply responding to crimes once they have been committed, community policing concentrates on preventing crime and eliminating the atmosphere of fear it creates.”   

Reduce fear in rural communities

“We believe that community policing could have a particular impact in rural areas where feelings of isolation, fear and vulnerability have been exacerbated by the closure of local Garda stations and decreased visible presence of Gardaí.”

“Positive engagement by Gardaí with communities, in order to understand underlying issues and change negative behavioural patterns, will deliver social benefits and help achieve policing objectives.”


The Law Society’s submission also highlights the success of the dedicated Office of Community Policing Services (COPS Office) in the United States.

“The COPS Office’s strategic and collaborative approach tackles underlying issues in order to build trust and mutual respect between police and communities.”

“The Society is recommending that, as well as reviewing the resourcing for the Joint Policing Committees that have been established in several areas, the Commission would explore the feasibility of adopting the COPS Office initiative in Ireland.”

Role of An Garda Síochána in rehabilitation of offenders

Gardaí play an important role in restorative justice alongside rehabilitation efforts across all criminal justice stakeholders. Restorative justice is a process where all parties with a stake in a specific offence resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of that offence and its implications for the future.

Two successful programmes in Ireland (Restorative Justice in the Community in Nenagh and Restorative Justice Services in Tallaght) recommended the use of restorative justice on a national basis. Further, restorative justice programmes delivered by police forces including the Greater Manchester Police and Thames Valley Police have reported successful outcomes for both crime victims and offenders.

“The Society recommends that the Commission promotes the use of properly-resourced restorative justice initiatives by An Garda Síochána and evaluates the current systems and resources available for this type of work.”

The future of policing: 14 recommendations

The Law Society’s submission makes 14 recommendations including:

  • Swift implementation of the evidence-based recommendations in Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Dr Geoffrey Shannon’s Audit of the exercise by An Garda Síochána of the provisions of Section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991 which received overwhelming endorsement by Government, all political parties and An Garda Síochána.
  • Consideration of the potential benefits of body-worn cameras and other technology to enhance policing work.
  • Urgent implementation of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture (OPCAT). Read more about OPCAT at this link.
  • Simplification of the system of policing governance, and the complaints and discipline processes.
  • Placing the role of the solicitor in attending Garda station interviews on a statutory footing.

The recommendations are set out in the Society’s submission to the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, which is conducting a public consultation on the future shape of policing in Ireland and will report in September 2018.

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