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If you make a trivial complaint against gardaí, it's unlikely you'll be prosecuted

Just 26 files in relation to bogus complaints have been sent to the DPP in the last ten years.

Image: Leon Farrell

THE GARDA OMBUDSMAN has said the success rate for prosecuting people over vexatious complaints against gardaí is “appalling”.

Speaking to garda superintendents at their annual conference in Naas today, Judge Mary Ellen Ring said GSOC does send files to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in these cases but many of them come back with no prosecution. In the almost ten years the ombudsman has been in operation, just 26 files have been sent to the DPP in relation to these kinds of complaints.

Of those 26, 11 went to court and six of those were convicted, receiving either a fine, community service or a custodial sentence.

Comparing it to prosecuting people for perjury in the courts, she said it can be “difficult to prove”. Ring said there is one such case before the courts at the moment, with another due to begin tomorrow.

When asked about the issue of “serial complainers”, Ring said her office receives a high number of complaints online, and many of them come in at night. She suggested reverting to only accepting complaints by post may discourage people from sending nuisance complaints.

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In her speech to delegates at the conference, Ring said GSOC should “not be doing the work of gardaí” when it comes to discipline. Around one in ten complaints relate to members allegedly being rude to a person. These issues could be quickly resolved in many cases, she said, with an explanation or apology from a senior member at a local station.

What is wrong with stepping up and saying, “I am sorry you appear to have had a bad encounter and here is what I am going to do?”. If I have a bad encounter with staff on a shop floor I go to the manager and make my complaint. A good manager will tell me that he or she is sorry I had a bad experience, undertake to speak to the person involved, express the hope it hasn’t put me off shopping in the store in the future and perhaps offer me a cup of tea as I appear to be upset.

Ring said she believed members of the public who make complaints about gardaí would also feel better if they could hear that the person in question was to receive further training to address their issues.

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