Department of Justice 'has not changed or adapted to modern world'

Civil servants in charge of the country’s policing and justice system have a closed, secretive and “silo driven” culture, a hard-hitting review has revealed.

The withering criticism confirmed significant leadership and management problems in the Department of Justice after repeated scandals led to the resignations of Martin Callinan as Garda Commissioner and Alan Shatter as Justice Minister earlier this year.

The review of how the powerful ministry operates uncovered ineffective management procedures and said it was incapable of holding key agencies to account.

It also said that relationships with the bodies it oversees tend to be informal and unstructured without strong central management.

Among the issues unearthed on this front was that the senior civil servants have a deferential relationship with An Garda Síochána.

The review stated: “The overall Departmental culture has not changed or adapted to the world in which it now operates.”

The findings led to the latest sudden departure in the field of policing and justice with the Government saying that Brian Purcell, secretary general of the Department of Justice, has asked to be moved to other duties in the public service.

Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Justice and Equality, said Mr Purcell thought it was in the best interests that he quit.

“Given the significant recent disquiet over the administration and oversight of justice in this state, I believe this report represents another important step in this Government’s justice reform programme,” she said.

“Ensuring an effective Department of Justice is essential to ensuring the full delivery of broader reforms to policing and justice in Ireland.”

The Minister added: “The Department of Justice and Equality must become a 21st century organisation to meet 21st century challenges.

“Leadership and management practices in place in the Department must equally be transformed to provide an effective workforce setting in which all staff can achieve their best.”

The review was ordered in June on the back of a series of scandals over how policing is carried out and how it is overseen.

Mr Shatter resigned in May on the back of a report into the department's handling of Garda malpractice allegations.

The Guerin report was fiercely critical of how Garda management, civil servants and Mr Shatter responded to concerns repeatedly raised by Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe and how he was treated.

Mr Callinan had stepped down, stating he was retiring, in March after it emerged that phonecalls in and out of Garda stations at divisional headquarters were being recorded for decades.

  • Click to stay connected with more stories like this
  • Sign up here to receive news by email. Once per day, no spam.

Most Read in Ireland