28. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when she foresees the independent review mechanism completing its work; her views on establishing a commission of investigation into serious cases which raise fundamental questions regarding the malpractice of certain members of An Garda Síochána; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6989/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): This Government, as part of its response to the report by Seán Guerin SC, took the initiative to have an independent review carried out of the allegations of Garda misconduct which had been submitted to my Department, to the Office of the Taoiseach and a number of other public representatives. This unprecedented decision was taken with a view to getting an objective and independent legal view on whether further action might be warranted in any case.
As the Deputy is aware, a panel consisting of two senior and five junior counsel was established for that purpose. This independent review panel has been examining 315 cases referred to them. This is a significant number of cases, and somewhat higher than originally estimated, but I think it was important to refer to the Panel all of the allegations that have been made to me as Minister or to the Taoiseach, whether they came direct from complainants or through representative groups, with only the most minimal filtering out of cases which did not actually relate to the Garda Síochána. This does mean that counsel are examining a very wide range of cases, some of which deal directly with the Garda Síochána, but others of which extend to other aspects of the criminal justice system beyond my remit, such as the prosecution and trial of offences. It is also worth noting that the cases contain a very wide variety in the seriousness of the allegations.
The Panel has made significant progress and the submission of recommendations to me is being prepared by officials. Each recommendation will be very carefully considered, but as a matter of general principle let me say quite clearly that, in coming to a decision in each case, I will be very strongly guided by the independent advice of counsel. Quite clearly, having engaged counsel for this review it would be entirely appropriate to be guided by their advice.
Where counsel do recommend further investigations, I will as I say be very strongly guided by that advice. Clearly, there are a number of possible options for further investigations, in particular by way of referral to GSOC, but any recommendation for referral of a case to a commission of investigation will be very carefully considered, including whether this could be achieved by way of amending the terms of reference of an existing commission or the establishment of a separate commission.
However I would also make the point that in many cases, counsel may recommend that no further action can reasonably be taken. This might be, for example, because a case has already been through due process, such as an investigation by GSOC or a court hearing, even though the complainant remains unhappy with the outcome. The crucial point, however, is that every case will have been reviewed by independent counsel, who will have made an objective recommendation. There will be no undue delay in the process of notifying complainants of the outcome of the reviews.