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Mr Justice Rory McCabe, chairperson of GSOC speaking in the Oireachtas this morning.
Public Accounts Committee

Majority of garda watchdog complaint investigations taking two years to complete

Mr Justice Rory McCabe, chair of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) appeared before the Public Accounts Committee this morning.


A GREAT MAJORITY of garda watchdog complaint investigations into gardaí are taking just less than two years to complete. 

Mr Justice Rory McCabe, chair of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) and other officials appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this morning. 

During questioning by Independent TD Verona Murphy the committee was told that 87% of cases were completed within two years of the initial complaint. 

On average their investigations into alleged criminal behaviour by gardaí were being completed in 366 days in 2022. That has dropped to 224 days in 2023.

The body said that overall complaints have increased but that they are carrying out less investigations due to systems introduced to deal with inadmissible allegations.

The committee were also told that some of those inadmissible complaints could be as “frivolous” as that the garda did not have clean boots. 

Also at the meeting McCabe said that the body needs an injection of funding to be effective and is currently 23 staff members short of what is required.

The judge told the PAC this morning that “significant” increases in resourcing are needed.

It is the second time in twelve months that GSOC has told the PAC that they require more resource funding having made similar pronouncements last April. 

McCabe said that GSOC was not unique in resourcing issues in the public sector and added that there was an issue of retaining staff in employment. 

The committee heard that they need at least 180 investigators to complete the workload.

The judge added that the body receives approximately 2,000 complaints every year. In 2022 GSOC received a total of 1,826 complaints, containing 3,207 separate allegations, while receiving 41 referrals from An Garda Síochána. In that year, GSOC concluded investigation into 2,301 complaints.

McCabe said the budget allocation for 2022 was €13.679 million. In 2023 it was €16.67 million and for this year is €19.596 million.

“Increases in budget and staffing in recent years, added to organisational changes that we have been implementing, have assisted us in reducing backlogs, and in preparing for major institutional transition,” he told the committee. 

The Policing, Security and Community Safety Act will replace GSOC with Fiosrú, the Office of the Police Ombudsman.

“Notwithstanding these increases, our level of resourcing remains below what we need now and significantly below what the organisation is likely to need in order that Fiosrú can meet its new remit,” the Judge said. 

“Committee members will now be very familiar with our observation that for the new Office of the Police Ombudsman to succeed, significant additional support in the shape of resources and expertise will be needed.

“In order to better identify the new Ombudsman’s needs, we commissioned an external Organisational Review of GSOC. This helped us to make a business case to the Department of Justice, in which we outlined the level of resourcing – in terms of funding, capacity and expertise – that Fiosrú will, in our view, need,” he added.

McCabe said that “resourcing is not just about money” and added that GSOC was having a significant problem of recruiting and retaining staff.

“The specialist nature of our work, and the broader dynamics of the labour market today, pose real ongoing challenges in finding and retaining suitably qualified staff. This is a challenge we share with colleagues across the public and civil service, and will require workforce planning as Fiosrú comes to terms with the new mandate,” he said. 

McCabe said one method to retain staff in the future was to engage with a third-level education institution to design an accredited programme to provide training to their investigators.