Plea to enshrine human rights in policing29/11/2006 - 17:51:03
Human rights must be put at the core of policing, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties said tonight.
Insisting planned reforms of An Garda Siochana do not go far enough, the group called on Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Michael McDowell to ensure all recommendations from the Morris Tribunal are fully implemented.
Mark Kelly, ICCL director, said deficiencies identified at the corruption inquiry are not being addressed.
“Among the measures most urgently needed are reform of management structures, improved human rights training and proofing mechanisms and human rights compliant procedures for handling Garda agents,” he said.
“The ICCL hopes that the Tanaiste and Minister for Justice will seize this opportunity to place human rights at the core of policing in Ireland by implementing all of the recommendations made by Mr Justice Morris in his reports.”
The group outlined six areas were further reform is needed.
:: Constant and close monitoring of investigations to ensure compliance with human rights.
:: A Garda Authority, or policing body, to look after promotions, draw up policing plans, contracts and set clear performance goals the Commissioner will be accountable for.
:: The Office of the Garda Ombudsman should remain totally independent.
:: Recruitment and promotion should have no government influence and ethnic groups should be encouraged to join.
:: Powers to sign search warrants should be handed to Circuit or District Court judges – a move Mr McDowell supports and is bringing forward legislation on.
:: Gardaí running informers or covert operations must be given ethical direction and supervised to ensure rights are protected.
In a statement to the Dáil on garda reform, the Tánaiste said he had been taken aback and shocked by some of the findings from Morris. But he insisted not all the force was plagued by corruption and reforms were taking shape.
“The vast majority of gardai do their work honestly and conscientiously with a great spirit of public service,” the Tanaiste said.
“But there has to be an end to wrongdoing and the cover-up and collusion witnessed in cases in the past. No longer will misplaced and ill-judged loyalty to corrupt bullies be allowed to supplant the loyalty all gardaí owe to the Constitution and the law; to the people; and, indeed, to An Garda Siochana itself.”
The ICCL also noted the Garda Siochana Act 2005 made the Garda Commissioner directly accountable to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and while it welcomed closer ties it warned this runs the risk of over-centralising the force, politicising it and ultimately undermining its independence.
But Mr McDowell was also criticised for the slow pace of garda reform.
Labour Party justice spokesman Brendan Howlin said: “One of the main findings of the early Morris Reports is that disciplinary action within An Garda Siochana takes on the character of a criminal trial with a criminal level of proof required.
“There are ongoing discussions with the Garda Conciliation Council concerning new regulations – when will they become operative?
“Reform and public accountability within this most critical and vital public service continues at a painfully slow rate. It is simply not good enough.��
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