106. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will provide an update on the independent review of certain allegations of Garda misconduct; the estimated time of completion of the report; the proposed steps arising from the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19575/15]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The mechanism established for the independent review of certain allegations of Garda misconduct was an unprecedented step by this Government to bring independence and objectivity to bear on the examination of those allegations, some of which go back to 1969 and many of which pre-date 2000. A panel consisting of two senior and five junior counsel was established for this purpose with all members selected on the basis of their experience of the criminal justice system. They have been asked to examine the papers in each case with a view to determining whether further action is warranted and practical.
A total of 319 complaints were referred to the panel of counsel. Obviously, the volume and complexity of cases has changed the timeframe and has led to the review taking longer than originally anticipated. We wanted counsel to take time to examine all of the cases fully and carefully. Indeed, the number and variety of cases make the work of counsel all the more important. There are many cases which have already been through some form of process, whether that involves the courts, GSOC or some other body. The issues involved in the cases also range considerably, from tragic deaths to property disputes.
While the review of all of the allegations is not yet complete, my Department has received the recommendations of counsel in a significant number of cases. I have received the first batch of submissions on these cases and clearly, as I said previously, I want to start the process of writing to everyone concerned as soon as possible. I will consider the recommendations of counsel extremely seriously and cannot easily imagine circumstances in which I would not follow such recommendations. In communicating with individuals I am also anxious not only to set out the recommendation of counsel and my decision on it but also to outline as far as possible the reasons for the recommendation subject to any legal constraint there may be.
The legal advice of counsel contains, in many instances, comments on third parties and great care will have to be taken in setting out the main points. Therefore, I have decided to appoint a former judicial figure to advise on the preparation of the letter and the communications to the complainants. It is better to take that time now so as to provide complete reassurance on the probity and independence of the entire process from start to finish. That is the best way to communicate the decisions of counsel.
While it would not be appropriate to publish individual recommendations, I have considered how best information on the outcome of this process could be made public. In this regard, I have asked counsel, in addition to making recommendations in individual cases, to produce a general overview of the issues and trends which featured in this process. That may lead to the identification of issues and recommendation for change across a number of areas which I hope will enable us to address some of the general and thematic concerns raised by those persons whose cases were examined by counsel.