· Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Publishes the O’Higgins Commission Report following conclusion of legal consultations

· Mr Justice O'Higgins has produced a thorough and thoughtful report which deserves the most careful consideration to avoid a repeat of these issues

· The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice hopes that all involved can accept that Mr Justice O’Higgins looked at the facts fairly and dispassionately and made every effort to do justice to the position of all

 

11th May 2016

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, T.D. has today published the final report of the Commission of Investigation on Certain matters relative to the Cavan/Monaghan Division (the O'Higgins Commission).

On receipt of the report the Minister immediately referred it to the Attorney General and was advised, in line with the provisions of Section 38 of the Commission of Investigation Act 2004, to undertake a process to establish whether there was anything in the report which might prejudice criminal proceedings pending or in progress. This involved consultation with the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and An Garda Síochána. It was only possible to conclude that process yesterday afternoon, and having established that the issue of prejudice does not arise, the Minister presented the report to Government this morning and is now in a position to publish it.

Speaking today the Minister said: “The Commission of Investigation, using the wide range of statutory powers available to it, has now established, as definitively as it is possible to do, the facts surrounding the difficult matters it was asked to examine. Mr Justice O'Higgins has produced a thorough and thoughtful report which deserves the most careful consideration so that we can do everything possible to avoid a repeat of the issues which gave rise to the Commission of Investigation in the first place.

Whatever controversies might have surrounded some of the issues dealt with in the report we should not lose sight of one central and unpalatable fact: the report identifies a number of cases where victims of crime were not well served by An Garda Síochána. That is as unacceptable as it is disheartening and we must take all measures open to us to ensure that these shortcomings are not repeated.

Inevitably, Mr Justice O'Higgins reaches a number of conclusions about the roles played by a number of persons in the events outlined in his report. I hope all those affected can accept, as I do fully, that Mr Justice O'Higgins looked at the facts fairly and dispassionately and made every effort to do justice to the position of all.

I hope there can be general agreement too that what is important now is that the report is considered carefully in its totality and that we learn whatever lessons we can from it, particularly in the context of maintaining the high level of confidence which the community have in An Garda Síochána.

Some of the events investigated by Mr Justice O’Higgins go back almost a decade. For my own part, I believe that it is abundantly clear that the system we had in place up to a couple of years ago to deal with reports of wrongdoing within the Force by members of it served no-one particularly well: not the people making the reports, not the people the subject of those reports, not the Garda Síochána and, above all, not the public. This situation has been significantly transformed in a number of respects. In particular, the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, which was part of the previous Government's comprehensive approach to enhance the protection available to whistleblowers, provides a new mechanism for disclosures relating to An Garda Síochána. Now, a Garda member may make a protected disclosure to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, a statutorily independent body with a comprehensive range of powers available to it, which, if it believes it is in the public interest to do so, may investigate such a complaint

Furthermore, there has been an unprecedented programme of Garda reform which, having had the honour of being reappointed as Minister for Justice and Equality, I am determined to continue to progress.

For all those changes which have taken place or are under way, it is important that we look specifically at what the report by Mr Justice O'Higgins has to say. In this regard, I am asking the Garda Commissioner to examine the report and to indicate to me what further measures might be taken to try to prevent the type of difficulties outlined in it in relation to An Garda Síochána arising again. I am also seeking her proposals concerning the recommendations which it contains in relation to the Garda service. And I am forwarding a copy of the report to the Policing Authority in the context of its statutory role in relation to oversight of An Garda Síochána.

I very much appreciate that the events outlined in the report have been traumatic for many people who have been affected by them. It would be an injustice to those who brought events to light in the public interest and those who have lived under the shadow of these events for a long time, if we do not take on board the lessons from these events. I hope they can take some reassurance from the fact that the examination of those events in this report will help serve to consolidate a programme of reform which will ensure we continue to have a Garda Síochána in which its members and the community it serves can take great pride.

The Report can be found by accessing the link below.

ENDS.../

 

www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Commission-of-Investigation-Certain-Matters-relative-to-the-Cavan-Monaghan-Division-of-the-Garda-Síochána-Final-Report 

 

Note for Editors

Measures in support of victims

The EU Victims Directive has been in force in Ireland since 16 November 2015 and measures for victims contained in the Directive have been provided for by the Criminal Justice Agencies since that date on an operational basis. Legislation to fully transpose the Directive is being drafted on a priority basis to enable it to be introduced in the Oireachtas at an early date.

A number of other measures which have been or are being taken include:

· The establishment by An Garda Síochána of a Garda National Protection Services Unit led by a Chief Superintendent and the establishment of Garda Victim Services Offices, with dedicated staff, in every Garda District.

· The publication of a second National Strategy in January to address domestic, sexual and gender based violence.

· Drafting is underway on a Reformed and Consolidated Domestic Violence Bill which will provide enhanced protections for victims of domestic violence.

· Legislation in relation to sexual offences which propose wide ranging reforms of the law, including stronger sanctions, aimed at protecting children from sexual exploitation; child por,nography and online grooming.

Policing reform

Measures which form part of the reform process include:

· The Government appointed a new Garda Commissioner following an open and independent selection process for the position of Garda Commissioner. A similar open and independent selection process also saw the two Deputy Garda Commissioner positions filled.

· The Garda Commissioner has finalised a new Transformation Programme for An Garda Síochána.

· The new Policing Authority was established on 1 January 2016 to oversee the performance by the Garda Síochána of its functions relating to policing services. Ms Josephine Feehily has been appointed Chairperson and 8 ordinary Board members appointed. A CEO for the Authority was recruited following an open competition. The first public meeting of the Authority with the Garda Commissioner took place on 25 April.

· Legislation was introduced and enacted to strengthen the role and remit the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), including the power to investigate complaints against the Garda Commissioner.

· Judge Mary-Ellen Ring was appointed as the Chairperson of GSOC in August 2015.

· The Freedom of Information Act 2014 has been extended to An Garda Síochána.

· The Garda Professional Standards Unit (GPSU) on the operation of the fixed charge processing system (penalty points) was published. In response the Minister for Justice and Equality appointed Judge Mathew Deery, former President of the Circuit Court, to the new position of Independent Oversight Authority for the fixed charge processing system.

· In November 2014, the Garda Inspectorate published a comprehensive report on Crime Investigation. Significant work is continuing to implement its recommendations including:

· review of crime counting rules by the CSO;

· establishment of a Data Quality Team in An Garda Síochána;

· significant reorganisation and amalgamation of Garda national units;

· establishment of a Criminal Justice Steering Group to provide greater coordination between all bodies operating the Criminal Justice system;

· Gardai have established a new Incident Recording Process;

· A working group has examined the need for increased investment in Garda ICT as part of the upcoming Capital Programme.

· Gardai have established Victim Support Office in every local Garda division

· In December 2015, the Garda Inspectorate report entitled Changing Policing in Ireland was made public. Responses to the report have been gathered from the Garda Síochána and the other bodies subject to recommendations with a view to the development of implementation proposals for consideration by Government in due course.

· The Government’s commitment to Garda reform has been underpinned by significant financial allocation for—

· the Garda fleet (some €80 million committed - €34 million since 2012 plus €46 million in the Capital Plan 2016-2021)

· Garda ICT infrastructure (€330 million, including€205 million under the Capital Plan, between 2016 and 2021)

· Garda building projects (some €160 million, comprising €100 million for 3 Divisional Regional headquarters and 60 million in direct Exchequer funding as part of the Government’s Capital Plan 2016-2021 and a public private partnership)

Other measures include:

· review of crime counting rules by the CSO, together with an analysis of Garda crime recording published in June 2015, which is to be repeated at regular intervals;

· establishment of a Data Quality Team in An Garda Síochána;

· significant reorganisation and amalgamation of Garda national units;

· establishment of a Criminal Justice Steering Group to provide greater coordination between all bodies operating the Criminal Justice system;

· Gardai have established a new Incident Recording Process;

· A working group has examined the need for increased investment in Garda ICT as part of the upcoming Capital Programme.

· Gardai have established Victim Support Office in every local Garda division

In addition the new Programme for Government contains a commitment to bringing up Garda strength to 15,000 as well as to increases in the Garda Reserve and further investment in CCTV.

Background to the Commission

The Commission arose from the report of 6 May 2014 from Mr Sean Guerin, SC, to An Taoiseach concerning allegations made by Sergeant Maurice McCabe. The Government accepted Mr Guerin’s recommendation that a Commission of Investigation was desirable in the public interest in order to ensure continuing confidence in the Garda Síochána and the criminal justice system.

The terms of reference for the Commission are set our in the Order establishing the Commission (SI No. 38 of 2015) – link http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2015/si/38/made/en/print

Under the Order establishing the Commission, the Minister for Justice and Equality is the specified Minister responsible for overseeing administrative matters relating to the establishment of the Commission, including for receiving its reports.

Mr Justice Kevin O’Higgins was appointed as the Commission’s sole member. The Commission commenced its work on 10 February 2015 and was due to report within one year. The Minister for Justice and Equality agreed to the request from the Sole Member to grant an extension to 29 April 2016 for the Commission to report.