226. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding optimal communication and co-ordination during searches for missing persons which involve a multi-agency approach in addition to the help of volunteers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15274/19]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Deputy will appreciate that I have no role, in my capacity as Minister for Justice and Equality, in relation to operational matters, such as the matter referred to in the Deputy's question.
However, I am informed by An Garda Síochána that every report of a missing person made is appropriately assessed, with a view to determining the level of risk and degree of urgency which arise with regard to the person(s) believed to be missing. I am further informed that the nature of communication and coordination in a search for a missing person, or persons, will be dictated by prevailing circumstances.
On receipt of notification of a person being missing it is necessary for An Garda Síochána to establish:

  1. the need for a search;
  2. the purpose to be achieved by a search; and
  3. the extent of search, if required.
In making decisions regarding action to be taken, careful consideration is given to a number of factors, including:
- any factors which may render the missing person as particularly vulnerable, e.g. dementia, depression, age;
- the environment in which the search is to be conducted, i.e. urban, rural, mountainous, water-based;
- any previous missing person-related event associated with the person in question;
- the level of resources available to launch a quick and effective search operation; and
- the appropriate resources/assets to be used in the search, including whether specialist personnel and/or equipment is required.
These factors will be influential in determining the method of the search to be used.
The planning process involves consideration of all relevant evidence, information and intelligence, for the purpose of determining the nature of search operation to be undertaken. Typically, a family liaison officer (FLO) will be appointed and may play a crucial role in ensuring relevant information from family members is considered when deciding on an appropriate search plan.
Properly planned searches are a central factor in achieving the best possible outcome, in circumstances where one or more person is missing. It is, therefore important that a formal planning process is applied to all searches, irrespective of the extent of search required.
The Garda Superintendent (District Officer) of the location from which a person is missing will have particular responsibility to ensure that any search undertaken is done in a lawful and appropriate manner, and involves utilisation of necessary resources and techniques. The potential impact of a search on a community will also be considered, which will help in developing an appropriate communication strategy. When planning a search, An Garda Síochána engages with other relevant State agencies and with civilian volunteer groups, such as mountain rescue teams or diving clubs.
Through the facility of the Garda Press Office, An Garda Síochána will also engage in an appropriate media strategy, designed to ensure that cooperation from the general public is achieved in a manner that maximizes the potential to locate a missing person as soon as is possible.