Statement by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter, T.D., on an investigation by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) have, in accordance with section 103 of the Garda Síochána Act, forwarded detailed information to me concerning an investigation into allegations of collusion by members of An Garda Síochána with an individual in the movement and supply of controlled drugs, and the nature and extent of any relationship/s between members of An Garda Síochána and that individual. GSOC have emphasised to me the confidential nature of that material and, accordingly, it is not possible to put it in the public domain.

Separately, GSOC have submitted a special report to me today in accordance with section 80(5) of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005. There is an obligation on me under the legislation to lay this report before the Houses of the Oireachtas and I have now done so. A copy of this report is attached.

As with the statement issued by GSOC, it is important to emphasise that nothing in what I say is to be taken as commenting in any way on the actions or status of any individual.

I welcome the fact that the GSOC investigation has now concluded and that the Director of Public Prosecutions has directed no prosecutions in relation to the case. I note that the Commission has decided not to pursue a disciplinary investigation.

Nevertheless, it is clearly a matter of concern that it took an inordinate amount of time for this investigation to be concluded and that GSOC attribute the main reason for this long delay to difficulties experienced by the investigation team in obtaining evidence from the Garda Síochána. I have asked the Garda Commissioner for his observations on the findings of GSOC, and, in particular, on what they have to say about delays.

Some weeks ago general concerns of GSOC about delays in getting information were brought to my attention. Because of the seriousness with which I took these concerns I arranged to meet with members of GSOC to hear about them at first hand. Following that, the matter has been pursued with the Garda Commissioner. It is important to emphasise that GSOC have a wide range of statutory powers available to them - on a par with those available to the Garda Síochána themselves - to enable them to carry out their functions. The Commission has not suggested to me that they require any further statutory powers in this regard.

Before I received material from GSOC about this particular case, I informed the Dáil last week that I regarded full co-operation by An Garda Síochána with GSOC as extremely important, that protocols relating to the timely provision of information should be adhered to and failures to do so should only occur in exceptional circumstances. The Garda Commissioner is in no doubt as to my views on this matter.

It does not serve to encourage public confidence in GSOC for difficulties or arguments to persist privately or publicly about the timely provision of information to GSOC. In the circumstances, when I have received the observations of the Commissioner, I intend to convene a meeting with both the Garda Commissioner and the Commission to make sure that any difficulties in this regard have been resolved fully. This is not just in the interests of the public but to ensure where allegations are made against members of An Garda Síochána that the matter is resolved quickly.

The report made to me under section 80(5) raises a number of issues about the operation of systems for dealing with the provision of confidential information to the Gardaí. It is of its nature, and in the public interest, that at times police forces must rely on receiving information from people who do not lead unblemished lives. What is important is that appropriate structures and procedures are in place to deal with what is clearly a complex and sensitive area and that prescribed procedures are fully complied with.

Since 2010 a former Judge of the High Court, Mr. Thomas Smyth, has been tasked with monitoring the operation of the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) operated by An Garda Síochána. Last October the Judge reported to me that he was satisfied that An Garda Síochána were in substantial compliance in this regard. It has not been the practice up to now to publish reports submitted to me by the Judge but, in the current circumstances, I consider it in the public interest to do so. I also intend to publish such reports in future. A copy of the Judge's most recent report is attached.

The comments and recommendations made by GSOC have raised a series of important issues. They will receive my fullest consideration and, in the first instance, I will consult with both the Garda Commissioner and Mr. Justice Smyth about them.

9 May 2013

ENDS

Report of Independent Oversight Authority for Covert Human Intelligence Sources (PDF - 324KB) 

Report Pursuant to Section 80(5) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 (PDF - 888KB)