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Question

207. Deputy Josepha Madigan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the steps she will take to address repeated concerns (details supplied) in the O'Higgins report regarding proper investigation by An Garda Síochána; and if these areas have been examined and improved. [12939/16]

Answer

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The O'Higgins report identified a number of weaknesses in the conduct of Garda investigations in the Cavan Monaghan District of the Garda Síochána in the period 2007/8. I want to assure the Deputy that the new Garda training programme and new supervisory arrangements which are now in place should ensure that, as far as possible, there should be no recurrence of the types of incidents which feature in the O'Higgins report, including the matters raised by the Deputy.
I understand that under current operational regulations for the Gardaí, the daily performance accountability and learning framework, meetings take place at which incidents occurring in the previous 24 hours are discussed with the District Superintendent or the Inspector on his or her behalf and with Gardaí and supervisors. Directions and instructions are provided on matters under investigation. It is a much more collaborative and inclusive reporting and accountability mechanism. In a further recent development, a nominated supervisor is now allocated to all matters under investigation. Required actions are marked on associated PULSE incidents under investigation and must be attended to by investigating Gardaí. All incidents are reviewed by managers to ensure all actions and investigations are progressed.
Since I reopened the Garda College in September 2014, all Garda recruits undertake the new two-year training programme leading to a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Policing, accredited by the University of Limerick. This programme is the outcome of a comprehensive review of foundation training for entrants to An Garda Síochána and exemplifies best practice. Phase one, which lasts 32 weeks, is based in the Garda College and places a strong emphasis on problem-based learning, with students learning in small groups through engagement with realistic policing scenarios. Phase two, which lasts for 65 weeks, is primarily based in Garda stations, with appropriate training and development structures in place, including access to a trained tutor Garda and a permanently appointed supervisory Sergeant who are thoroughly familiar with their responsibilities under the training programme. During the course of their placement, trainees move through three development stages - assisting their Garda tutors, taking the lead role and being assisted by the tutors, and finally the autonomous stage, in which they are deployed in regular policing activity and work independently within the operational unit. Over the course of the placement, Gardaí also return to the Garda College for a number of weeks to further enhance their skills in specialist areas, including sexual assault, intelligence-led policing, file preparation and court presentation. Phase three consists of seven weeks of preparation for final exams and assessments.
While these new training and supervision arrangements are core to addressing the shortcomings which Mr Justice O'Higgins found, I have asked the Garda Commissioner to examine the Report of the O'Higgins Commission and to indicate to me what further measures might be taken to prevent the type of difficulties outlined in it in relation to An Garda Síochána arising again and her proposals to respond to the recommendations which are related to the Garda service. I await the Garda Commissioner's response to the report which is likely to assist with the identification of further measures to ensure that our citizens can enjoy effective policing.
The Policing Authority received a copy of the report in the context of its statutory role in relation to oversight of An Garda Síochána. The Authority and the Garda Commissioner held their first meeting regarding the Report on 26 May 2016 and further meetings are planned, including two public meetings.