Time to move on from Cooke Report, says GSOC

Thursday 03 July 2014 19.50
Simon O'Brien was speaking at the publication of GSOC's annual report 2013
Simon O'Brien was speaking at the publication of GSOC's annual report 2013

Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission Chairman Simon O'Brien has said it is now time to move on from the Cooke Report.

Speaking at the publication of its annual report 2013, he refused to answer questions from the media about the report, which found no evidence of bugging at the GSOC offices.

He said the Government was happy to accept the report and GSOC may come before the Oireachtas in the future to discuss the report, so it wants to keep any further comments for then.

After the Cooke Report was published, GSOC said questions remained in relation to the bugging allegations.

Asked about the resignation of a senior official in GSOC, the commissioners said they do not comment on staff members and this was not the right forum for that.

Fianna Fáil's Justice Spokesperson Niall Collins has said he can understand GSOC's position following the statement from Mr O'Brien, that it was time to move on from the Cooke Report.

However, he said the Justice Committee and the Petitions and Oversight Committees have work still to do in relation to the report.

He told RTÉ's News At One that the two committees had decided to meet in joint session and that Mr Cooke would be invited to make a presentation before this session.

Mr Collins said there were a number of outstanding matters which had arisen following the publication of the report and Mr Cooke's attendance at a joint session would allow for a public discussion of these matters.

He said that the justice committee has made a number of recommendations and they have been sent to the justice minister.

They include the proposal that the position of garda ombudsman would be held by one person rather than the current structure which is made up of three people.

Statistics in the annual report reveal that there were over 2,000 complaints made by members of the public, alleging over 5,200 cases of garda misconduct.

Over a third of allegations related to abuse of authority, followed by neglect of duty, assault and discourtesy.

Outside Dublin, the largest number of complaints from the public were in Tipperary, while the largest number of referrals from the commissioner to GSOC related to Donegal.

The most common outcome of complaints was that there was no further investigation.

In 18 cases the matter was referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions for prosecution; in 17 cases gardaí were cautioned.

In 2013, 41 cases were referred to GSOC by the garda commissioner, a fall from 72 the year before.

GSOC said there is no immediate explanation for this trend but it intends to explore it with An Garda Síochána.

GSOC noted that there are encouraging signs in terms of information exchange with gardaí, and said communication has been good with the interim garda commissioner.

In the past, GSOC has complained that garda compliance was directly affecting its ability to deliver on its objectives. It recently renegotiated protocols with the gardaí, but now wants that enshrined in law.