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Garda presenters

Govt dismisses recommendation to alter Garda role for prosecuting court cases

A review group has concluded that major changes would not result in the desired reallocation of Garda resources.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS dismissed a recommendation by the Commission on the Future of Policing to reform how cases are prosecuted by gardaí in court.

The final report of a review group on the role of gardaí in prosecuting court cases was delivered to Cabinet earlier today.

It’s concluded that radical changes to the current prosecution system would not result in a major reallocation of garda resources to core policing duties.

It instead proposes ensuring that An Garda Síochána retain responsibility for the presentation of prosecutions at court, but with support via enhanced monitoring and training from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Court presenters are generally gardaí at sergeant or inspector rank who act as prosecuting gardaí in court – they act on behalf of other, often lower-ranking gardaí, and outline the details of cases for the judge.

This was designed to keep gardaí on the streets and save on overtime payments for court appearances and essentially means lower ranking gardaí have to attend court less often.

In the Commission on the Future of Policing report delivered five years ago, it was recommended to change the system. The commission said that it was not appropriate that investigators act as those prosecuting the case.

It remains the one recommendation of the commission not accepted by the government.

The system was thrown into disarray two years ago when a High Court justice banned garda court presenters prosecuting cases in a surprise ruling.

Cabinet meeting

At Cabinet this evening, the Taoiseach and Justice Minister updated the Government on the role of gardaí in public prosecutions.

They received approval for the publication of the final report of the ‘High Level Review Group’ on the role of garda presenters, which was established to evaluate the recommendation by the commission.

The group was asked to develop a range of options for the government to implement this recommendation, and to identify a preferred solution.

However, the option settled on to reform the system does not follow the commission’s recommendation.

The review group proposed building on existing reforms which it believes promises greater internal oversight and consistency in management of court cases.

An Garda Síochána will also continue to prosecute low-level but high-volume offences on behalf of but with enhanced quality assurance and monitoring by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In addition, an office will be established in each Garda Division with the responsibility of managing court cases.

It’s hoped that this will deliver consistency in how court services are managed, with proposed dedicated personnel aiming to reduce the administrative work load of frontline Gardaí.

It’s understood that the new review claimed that very few jurisdictions internationally have attempted the full reconfiguration as envisaged by commission, and that those who did eventually resiled from it, either for cost or for efficiency reasons.

Further to the changes, the model pursued by the government will see the establishment of a Summary Prosecution Reform Steering Committee (SPRSC) which will have responsibility for monitoring the implementation of the new reform model.

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