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Abuse of authority and neglect of duty were the two most common reasons for complaints to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) last year.
The commission received just under 2,000 complaints in 2015, of which 1,102 were considered admissible. The complaints involved more than 4,200 allegations, with one third, approximately, being related to abuse of authority, and one third to neglect of duty. Complaints received were down 11 per cent on 2014.
Abuse of authority included such allegations as excessive use of force, or an instruction to do something which the person making the complaint believed was beyond the garda’s authority to instruct.
Neglect of duty involved allegations such as that a garda failed to take an action that could have been reasonably expected - such as returning a phone call - or had not properly investigated an alleged serious crime.
Of the 40 complaints relating to the policing of protests about water charges and the installation of water meters, 29 were deemed admissible, and no prosecutions were directed.
One file was send to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The investigations included examination of video from cameras carried by the garda and from social media. One third of complainants did not co-operate with Gsoc or withdrew their complaints.
The Dublin Metropolitan, Kilkenny-Carlow, Galway, Donegal and Limerick were the Garda divisions with the highest numbers of allegations, according to the report, which pointed out that it was logical that a higher number of complaints would come from busier divisions. Dublin South Central was the division with the highest number of complaints.
In relation to complaints generally, the report said 80 per cent were from Irish people, 5 per cent from British people, 2 per cent each were from Indian and Polish people, 1 per cent each were from Romanian and Nigerian people.
The commission received 52 referrals of cases where a person had died or received serious harm as an apparent result of the conduct of a garda. In most cases the circumstances involved road policing or arrest.
More than half of the 58 referrals (some from previous years) that were closed in 2015 were closed “quite quickly after initial independent examination showed no evidence of misbehaviour or criminality by a garda,” the report said.
Three cases led to criminal investigations and prosecution being directed by the DPP, while six led to criminal investigations but no direction for prosecution being made. In eleven cases no further action followed criminal investigation, while six cases were discontinued due to lack of cooperation from the injured party.
In two cases there was disiplinary investigation and sanction applied by the Garda Commissioner.
There were two public interest investigations opened during 2015 following public order incidents being recorded on social media. One concerned a homeless man being arrested on Henry Street, Dublin, and the second concerned the use of force during a protest at a property auction in Gorey, Co Wexford. The former has been completed and found that the use of force was proportionate, while the latter is still under investigation.