100 years of policing report

‘Sustained increase’ in GSOC workload

The annual report for 2021 by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) shows a “sustained increase in the policing oversight body’s caseload” with a 12 per cent increase in complaints received from the public and a 40 per cent increase in referrals from An Garda Síochána following incidents of death or serious harm.

The report, GSOC in Transition, provides an overview of the work undertaken by the ombudsman during 2021, showing the 12 per cent increase in the volume of complaints from the public, the increase of 40 per cent in referrals by gardaí following incidents of death or serious harm, and a 21 per cent increase in the volume of cases closed in 2021.

GSOC made 60 findings of breaches of discipline by members of An Garda Síochána during 2021, which resulted in the imposition of sanctions by the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Five criminal cases arising from GSOC investigations were decided in court in 2021, involving charges of sexual assault, assault, and theft; there were also 13 charges directed for prosecution by the Director of Public Prosecutions arising from GSOC investigations in 2021, with charges including sexual offences, assault, breaches of the Road Traffic Acts, and the provision of false information.

Overall, 2,189 complaints were opened by GSOC in 2021, containing 3,760 allegations; 61 per cent of these were ruled admissible. 557 criminal and 752 non-criminal investigations were opened, with 59 referrals from An Garda Síochána of matters where “it appeared ‘the conduct of a member of the Garda Síochána may have resulted in the death of or serious harm to a person’”. 2,078 complaints were closed, a 21 per cent increase, and 13 public interest investigations, undertaken in the absence of a complaint or referral from the Commissioner, were opened. 20 protected disclosures were also received, and 21 files were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The report also casts an eye to the future of GSOC and the reforms legislated for in the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill. To prepare for the expansion of its powers, GSOC established a cross organisational transition project group “to ensure that the organisation builds its capacity to undertake the role envisaged in the draft legislation”. GSOC published its observations on the general scheme of the Bill in December 2021, in which it stated that it welcomes the “draft legislation’s proposals for the expansion and restructuring of its investigatory powers, but stress the importance of independence, adequate resourcing, and Garda cooperation”.

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