The Garda Ombudsman has told an Oireachtas committee that the vast majority of cases of death or serious harm involving a garda do not result in a prosecution.

GSOC said it was precluded from discussing the case of a garda facing prosecution after pursuing three members of a travelling burglary gang who crashed into a truck and died driving down the wrong way on the N7 two years ago.

However, its Director of Investigations Peter Whelan told the committee that nobody but the Director of Public Prosecutions and GSOC will have seen the evidence in cases like these and the decision to prosecute was a matter for the DPP.

Commissioner Hugh Hume said that of the 48 such cases investigated, files were sent to the DPP in two cases.

The Chairman of GSOC agreed with Fianna Fáil Senator Eugene Murphy that the public perception is that once they hear GSOC was involved, the garda was guilty and that its messaging had to be better.

"It gives me no pleasure to turn on the radio in the morning," Mr Justice Rory MacCabe said. He also said in response to a question about who regulates the regulators that GSOC was subject to judicial review if people were unhappy with its work.

The chairman said that complaints about delays in GSOC investigations were often justified and that everybody was frustrated at the length of time of some investigations.

Staff and resources

The committee heard the average length of an investigation was 366 days but that some cases remained open for up to 15 years.

It said it needed more staff and resources and that while investigators in similar police oversight bodies in England and Wales worked on between two and five cases, GSOC's investigators had ten and sometimes up to 40.

Its 40 investigators can cope with 400 cases in total but had to deal with between 900 and 1,200 cases each year.

Three senators and the chairman asked GSOC questions at the Petitions Committee today.

Earlier, GSOC said it does not have the minimum staff and resources necessary to investigate gardaí and that these should be doubled.

It said it does not have the minimum amount of staff and resources to meet its present needs and not even close to the amount required for the proposed new Office of the Police Ombudsman due to replace it this year.

GSOC is appearing before an Oireachtas committee today - its first public engagement in the wake of a number of recent controversies.

One of its senior investigators resigned following his attendance at a party with Gerard Hutch the night Hutch was acquitted of murder.

Recently, the AGSI refused to leave the GSOC offices until it provided garda headquarters with information about a suspended sergeant who had no criminal case to answer, to enable him to be reinstated after two years.

GSOC has also been criticised recently in the Dáil after one of its investigators told a Coroners Court that a garda was to be prosecuted in connection with a fatal crash in which three recidivist offenders died.

The head of GSOC, Chief Commissioner Mr Justice Rory MacCabe was due to tell the Oireachtas Petitions Committee that it investigates, but does not prosecute, suspend or discipline gardaí and that these are decisions for the DPP and the Garda Commissioner.

The judge accepts that while the duration of investigations can cause understandable frustration, GSOC cannot prioritise speed at the expense of rigour.

Its latest figures, which have not yet been published, show it received over 1,800 (1,826) complaints last year containing over 2,200 (2,234) allegations, from low level to the "utmost seriousness".

The top three circumstances underpinning complaints were issues during arrest, poor customer service and complaints relating to the conduct of an investigation.

The top three allegations arising from complaints in 2022 were neglect of duty (33%), non-fatal offences such as assault (21%) and abuse of authority (20%).

Just over half of all complaints, between 50% and 60%, were found to be admissible.

GSOC has a staff of 170 and a budget of almost €17m (€16.67m) but this, it says, is not enough and should be doubled.

It was due to tell the Oireachtas committee that its budget and resources "remain some way off the minimum necessary to meet our present needs and does not come close to meeting the requirements that the expanded statutory functions proposed in the new legislation will require".

It also says the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill, the new legislation currently going through the Houses of the Oireachtas which will replace GSOC with the new Office of the Police Ombudsman, will in fact curtail its powers.

Mr Justice MacCabe says the legislation "maintains an undue degree of ministerial involvement" and falls short of the vision of independent civilian oversight laid out by Commission on the Future of Policing in 2018.

He also says it limits the new agency's powers in crucial areas, including search powers and fails to require gardaí to cooperate fully and promptly with the agency’s investigations.

The General Secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) has said that there is "no assurance" that the doubling of resources sought by GSOC will result in more timely investigations.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Antoinette Cunningham said GSOC faces no accountability for how long their investigations take, with gardaí facing "years and years" out in the cold as a result.

"They're abandoned into a system that doesn’t seem to work, there’s no oversight of GSOC in what they do, and how they’re seeking more unfettered powers to carry out investigations with no detail of what those investigations will consist of or how long they might take."

Ms Cunningham said staff associations had to be a voice for those who felt they had no voice of their own.

"If we're not doing that then we’re not our job," she added.