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Policing Bill grants Garda ombudsman 'almost draconian' powers, superintendents' group warns

The association’s annual conference begins in Kildare today.
Oct 13th 2021, 11:53 AM 16,725 19

GARDA SUPERINTENDENTS HAVE warned that the new Policing and Security Bill grants the Garda Ombudsman and Policing Authority “almost draconian” powers.

The government has been accused of granting excessive powers to oversight bodies managing gardaí.

The association that represents garda superintendents have said that if the bill passes, it will leave oversight bodies with more power over the gardaí than investigators have over criminals.

Many are taking issue with the current proposals in the bill, including components regarding oversight and right to entry without a warrant.

“Subject to the act the authority may do anything, which is considered necessary and expedient to enable it to perform its functions,” the proposed bill reads.

The Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner are due to address the association’s annual conference which begins in Kildare today.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Superintendent Declan McCarthy, member of the national executive committee of the association, raised concerns that the government expects gardaí to allow an oversight body to have a level of “unfettered power”.

He went on to add that if the government granted the same level of powers to An Garda Siochána, “civil liberties groups and other groups throughout the country would rightly be up in arms”.

The government has put forward the bill in order to increase accountability and performance of the gardaí as well as to improve the complaints procedure.

The association was invited by the Dáil committee to make a detailed submission regarding issues with the proposed bill. McCarthy said the association will “address all those concerns in greater detail in that submission.”

An issue of contention is the notion that the authorities are loath to give a promotion to any member of An Garda Siochána if they have an outstanding complaint made against them.

McCarthy detailed that this was because currently there is almost the “presumption of guilt” when it comes to complaints made against any member of the force.

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In the current system, delays to the processing of complaints can often leave gardaí in limbo.

Criticising the bill, president of the association Seamus Nolan stated: “Where are the Policing Authority and the Garda Ombudsman when it comes to addressing false, malicious, vexatious allegations against An Garda Siochána?”

Nolan went on to add that the current proposals in the bill would “shackle future generations of gardaí through a multiplicity of governance, purported oversight and intrusive regulation”.

McCarthy also suggested that the Bill gives the power of entry without warrant to garda premises, and described this as “inappropriate”. He noted that this was something that gardaí can only do themselves in exceptional circumstances, with court oversight.

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