A professor in criminal law has told a conference in Limerick that An Garda Siochána remains one of the most secretive police forces in the world.

Professor Dermot Walsh says that while gardaí convey an image in public of openness and transparency, there may not be as much substance to that as there appears.

He told the conference on Police Governance and Accountability in the University of Limerick that gardaí do not publish documents and policies that it should publish as a publicly accountable body.

He said the Garda Code, which informs individual gardaí on how to do the job, is a confidential book and there should be no reason for this.

Professor Walsh also criticised the force for not publishing its policies in relation to operational policing, the policies that direct how gardaí police the country.

He asked is there any policy in relation to how gardaí use their discretion in different circumstances.

If there is not a policy governing discretion, he said, that was a matter of deep concern because different gardaí would exercise their discretion in different ways leading to inconsistencies in how the law applies.

A situation could arise that one garda might decide to prosecute one individual for one offence, whereas another might not prosecute another for the same offence and that is unfair.

Professor Dermot Walsh is the Director of the Centre for Criminal Justice at Limerick University.