Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) is an independent statutory body, established under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 and set up in 2007. It replaced the Garda Síochána Complaints Board. Its mission is to provide efficient, fair and independent oversight of policing in Ireland.
The Garda Síochána Act 2005 (section 65) provides for three Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commissioners, appointed by the President on the nomination of Government and the passage of resolutions by the Oireachtas (Irish government). One of the Commissioners is appointed as Chairperson. A Commissioner’s term of office is 3-6 years and he/she may be reappointed for a second term. The Act allows for the Commission to act normally with one or more vacancies among its members. The Commission is the equivalent of the Board of GSOC and holds monthly Commission meetings.
The organisation also has a Director of Administration and a Director of Investigations.
At the end of 2016, the organisation had 77 staff. 20 are employed in the Administration Directorate and 57 in the Operations Directorate. Additional to this are the three Commissioners, a Superintendent seconded from An Garda Síochána and two ICT contractors.
The Garda Ombudsman’s mission is to provide the public with an independent and effective oversight of policing, and to deal with the public’s complaints concerning Gardaí fairly and efficiently so that everyone can have confidence in the complaints.
Three people make up the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. They are :
Our Management Team
Director of Administration
Director of Investigations
Head of Legal
Niamh Mc Keague
GSOC’s total budget for 2016 was €9,546,000, Pay & Allowances amounting to €5,026,035 and non-pay to €3,360,295.
Powers and Competence
GSOC’s primary responsibility is to deal with complaints made by members of the public concerning the conduct of members of the Garda Síochána. There are several different ways these may be dealt with.
Types of investigation which can be undertaken by the Garda Ombudsman:
All allegations of criminal offences (for example assault) by gardaí are investigated by the Garda Ombudsman’s own investigators.
There are three ways allegations of breaches of discipline can be handled:
Informal resolution – Sometimes it makes most sense for the Garda Ombudsman to try to work with both parties to resolve a situation informally, e.g. if a person is complaining that their property has not been returned. This can be much quicker than a formal investigation. It is a voluntary process, requiring the consent of both parties.
Disciplinary investigation by the Garda Síochána (s.94) – These are conducted by Garda superintendents (GSIOs) according to the Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations, 2007. They can be supervised or unsupervised by a GSOC investigator, depending on the seriousness of the allegation.
- If they are unsupervised, the Protocols between GSOC and the Garda Síochána say that they must be completed and an investigation report provided to GSOC, for the complainant, within 16 weeks. Typical examples of cases that are investigated in this way would be an allegation that a house was searched without a warrant, or that there was abuse of authority in the manner in which an arrest was conducted.
- If it is supervised, a designated GSOC investigator may meet with the GSIO to agree the investigation plan, can direct and partake in the investigative actions, and must receive interim reports. The Protocols say that supervised disciplinary investigations must be completed and an investigation report provided within 20 weeks. An example might be a more serious allegation of neglect of duty, for example lack of, or insufficient, investigation of a serious crime reported to the gardaí.
Non-criminal investigation by GSOC (s.95) – Certain disciplinary investigations may be undertaken by the Garda Ombudsman’s own investigators.
GSOC has several other responsibilities unrelated to complaints. These are:
To conduct independent investigations, following referral by the Garda Síochána, in circumstances where it appears that the conduct of a garda may have resulted in the death of, or serious harm to, a person (provided for by s.102(1) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005). 52 such referrals were received in 2015, of which 15 related to fatalities.
To investigate matters in relation to the conduct of gardaí, when it is in the public interest, even if a complaint has not been received (provided for by s.102(4), 102(4)A, 102(5) and 102(7) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, as amended). 12 such investigations were opened in 2015.
To investigate (with the consent of the Minister for Justice and Equality) where there is a concern that the Garda Commissioner may have committed an offence or behaved in a manner that would constitute serious misconduct (provided for by s.102B of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, as amended).
To examine any “practice, policy or procedure” of the Garda Síochána. Two such examinations have been conducted by GSOC to date (provided for by s.106 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005).
Our Annual Reports each year detail the amount of activity undertaken by the organisation in the previous year in relation to these responsibilities.
Number of Complaints in 2016 in the field of police complaints
GSOC received 1758 complaints containing 3768 allegations in 2016
Link to GSOC 2016 Annual Report: https://www.gardaombudsman.ie/docs/publications/AnnualReports/GSOC_AR16.pdf