Future of policing report

New Policing Act brings in sweeping reforms

The recently-passed Policing, Security and Community Safety Act 2024 aims to “strengthen the governance of An Garda Síochána and to provide for clear and effective oversight and accountability of An Garda Síochána”.

Passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas in February 2024, the Policing, Security and Community Act has created a new board of An Garda Síochána. In another significant change, the Act provides for the independence of the Garda Commissioner in relation to the performance of their functions.

The Policing, Security and Community Safety Act aims to:

  • make community safety a whole-of-government and multi-agency responsibility;
  • strengthen and consolidate independent, external oversight of An Garda Síochána;
  • enhance the internal governance of An Garda Síochána by establishing a new non-executive board, Bord an Gharda Síochána, which is a corporate governance standard across the public and private sectors; and
  • strengthen independent review of security legislation and the delivery of security services by providing for the establishment of an Independent Examiner of Security Legislation.

Other key features

The new Act aims to establish a suite of new institutions to account for the transfer of powers.

The new Local Community Safety Partnerships (LCSPs) aim to provide a forum for state agencies and local community representatives to “work together to act on community concerns”. These groups will have a broader remit and broader membership than the joint policing committees they will replace. Three pilot LCSP schemes have been running since 2021 in Dublin’s north inner city, Waterford, and Longford.

The Department of Justice states that learnings from these pilot programmes have informed the drafting of the Bill and the plans for the rollout of the LCSPs across the country.

The new legislation introduces independent external oversight of An Garda Síochána through the establishment of An tÚdarás Póilíneachta agus Sábháilteachta Pobail (the new Policing and Community Safety Authority), which will combine the existing oversight function of the Policing Authority and the functions of the Garda Inspectorate.

A reformed police complaints body – Fiosrú – Oifig an Ombudsman Póilíneachta (the new office of the Police Ombudsman) will be established to replace the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) and reformed processes and procedures will be put in place relating to the handling of complaints and the conduct of investigations into allegations of wrong doing on the part of members of Garda personnel.

The Act also aims to support the internal capacity of An Garda Síochána to manage itself effectively, deliver reform, increase diversity, and improve outcomes for communities.

Journey to passage and principles

A report by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland identified that much of the work of Gardaí relates to the non-crime activity of “preventing harm to people with addiction or mental health conditions, resolving issues for those who are homeless, the elderly, children and others at risk”. Under the new legislation, the prevention of harm will be a specific statutory objective of An Garda Síochána.

In tandem with this, the new Act embeds a key principle from the Commission’s report that preventing crime and harm and making communities safer does not rest with An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice alone.

The Department of Justice states that when it comes to the prevention of crime, there will be a “whole of government responsibility” with departments and agencies such as health and social services, education authorities and local authorities, the Gardaí and the wider community working in tandem with shared objectives.

Speaking in January 2024, when the then-Bill had been voted for by the Houses of the Oireachtas but prior to final sign-off from President Michael D Higgins, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee TD said: “This Bill recognises that responsibility for community safety does not rest with An Garda Síochána alone but requires other government departments and state agencies to work together.

“Importantly, this legislation has communities at its heart, recognising that it is the people living in a community who know that community best.”

New bodies created under Policing, Security and Community Safety Act 2024

  • Bord an Gharda Síochána (Board of An Garda Síochána)
  • An Oifig Náisiúnta um Shábháilteacht Pobail (National Office for Community Safety)
  • An Grúpa Stiúrtha Náisiúnta um Shábháilteacht Pobail (National Community Safety Steering Group)
  • An tÚdarás Póilíneachta agus Sábháilteachta Pobail (Policing and Community Safety Authority)
  • Coimisiún Ombudsman an Gharda Síochána (Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission)
  • Oifig an Scrúdaitheora Neamhspleách um Reachtaíocht Slándála (Office of Independent Examiner of Security Legislation)
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