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Dublin: 15 °C Thursday 27 June, 2019
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Every garda sent an email telling them how to be a whistleblower

The Garda Commissioner and her senior team were grilled by the Policing Authority in a public session today.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan arriving at the public session with her senior team today.
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan arriving at the public session with her senior team today.
Image: PA WIRE

THE GARDA COMMISSIONER has again stressed her commitment to ensuring whistleblowers within the force are supported and listened to, as she appeared before a public session of the Policing Authority.

Nóirín O’Sullivan said a new Protected Disclosures Policy was published this morning and “an email was sent to every garda” outlining the options open to them and how the system will work if they suspect wrongdoing or failings in investigations.

We want to create a trusting environment where people feel they can come forward and raise issues.

The commissioner acknowledged that the organisation had failed victims and that domestic violence victims in particular often felt their complaints were not taken seriously.

She said feedback about the 28 new dedicated victim service offices had been positive, but that further work would be needed to ensure victims receive the service they deserve.

Oversight

Assistant Commissioner Jack Nolan told the authority members that they “cannot guarantee that something won’t fall through the cracks in the future” but said the chances of this have been “significantly reduced”.

“I would be confident, by-and-large, other than for extraordinary or extenuating [circumstances].”

One of the main criticisms in the O’Higgins report into allegations of wrongdoing in the Cavan/Monaghan division was that probationers, or trainee gardaí, were put in charge of very serious cases without any oversight by more experienced officers. Nolan said the new Pulse system ensures there is a supervisor attached to each incident and incidents are reviewed on a daily or weekly basis at meetings.

The commissioner said these meetings “should identify early if there’s any difficulty arising and then we can have an intervention with training”.

Compassion and empathy

O’Sullivan repeated comments she had previously made, that “dissent is not disloyalty”, telling the authority that complaints to the new Protected Disclosures Manager, who is the Chief Superintendent of Human Resources, will be “actioned immediately”.

A civilian member of the organisation can also deal with complaints, if a member is uncomfortable going to a senior garda. An email has been issued to all 16,000 members of An Garda Síochána, the authority was told, outlining the details of the new policy. TheJournal.ie has asked for a copy of the policy.

The tone will have to start from the top down, she said, to ensure a culture change whereby members show “compassion and empathy towards each other”.

The commissioner also defended the recent appointment of assistant commissioners, which she said had been “portrayed as duplicitous and disrespectful to the authority”. These promotions were an “overdue, urgent and essential step” towards filling deficits, according to the commissioner.

Authority chair Josephine Feehily said they recognised that the commissioner needs a senior team, adding it would be “foolish in the extreme” not to support this move while formalities for the authority to take over this role are still being put in place by the Department of Justice.

The authority also questioned senior gardaí about the revelation at the weekend that prosecutions were taken against people for having no NCT certificate, even after they had already paid fines.

Deputy Commissioner John Twomey said a full audit has been launched and the courts and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions have been made aware of the error. Gardí will contact any individual affected by it in writing, he added, and they will have more detail by the end of June, which will be provided to the authority.

Read: Policing Authority expresses ‘deep unease’ at garda management culture>

Read: It doesn’t deal with complaints, so what does the Policing Authority do?>

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