The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) today welcomes the publication of the Government’s Implementation Plan for the Commission on the Future (CFP) of Policing Report. ICCL particularly welcomes the details set out in the Plan and the establishment of an Implementation Group on Policing Reform to deliver the process of reform.
Speaking today, ICCL Executive Director Liam Herrick said:
“This plan sets out a blueprint for the radical reform of Irish policing that is urgently needed. We recognise the ambitious nature of this reform programme, and the political priority which has been attached to Garda reform by the Government. The vision is correct, the political commitment is in place – but the devil will be in the legislation, procedures and budgets that will be necessary to realise this plan.
The Implementation Plan commits to the key changes that ICCL has been calling for many years. Nonetheless we emphasise and reiterate our previous calls for urgent reform in key areas not mentioned in the Implementation Plan, including ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), the introduction of legislation to deal with hate crime, and the establishment of a Victims’ Ombudsman.”
As was recommended by the CFP, human rights must be at the centre of the reform process. ICCL welcomes the planned establishment of a Human Rights Unit within An Garda Síochána, but this in itself is not sufficient to guarantee a human rights-compliant policing service. The unit must be mandated and resourced to human rights-proof all aspects of the work of An Garda Síochána, and to ensure those policies are implemented throughout the organisation, and throughout the work of the oversight bodies.
We welcome the intention to codify legislation defining police powers of arrest, search and detention. Within this, we recommend the prioritisation of legislation which would allow for an inspection mechanism of all places of Garda detention, as required by the OPCAT.
In relation to the separation of policing functions from functions which would be better carried out by civilians with human rights training – such as immigration, criminal prosecution and court security – we are concerned that the government has accepted these recommendations in principle only.
Liam Herrick said:
“Human rights must be embedded in every aspect of the government’s plan for reform. We must learn from previous experience where good human rights work within An Garda Síochána failed to permeate the organisation. A strong human rights focus will be required in the Implementation Programme Office in the Department of the Taoiseach, and in all of the bodies responsible for reform – not siloed in one Garda office.”
A crucial aspect of the Implementation Plan will be in relation to oversight and accountability, and ICCL has previously made detailed submissions on how an effective complaints system and a robust inspection regime must be foundations for reform – in these key areas the Implementation Plan makes strong recommendations which we welcome.
In the area of privacy rights, and the operation of intelligence and surveillance policing, ICCL welcomes the roll-out of the Strategic Threat Analysis Centre, an Independent Examiner, and an oversight framework. We are pleased to learn that reports will be delivered to Oireachtas and Cabinet meetings with a focus on community safety.
However, we would warn against increasing capability in surveillance and intelligence mechanisms when the existing apparatus is far from rights-compliant. Regarding intelligence sharing, we hope that the oversight framework will provide for executive and legislative approval of intelligence sharing which is public to the extent possible, subject to prior independent authorisation, and which incorporates regular due diligence risk assessments. These specific measures are needed to safeguard against arbitrariness and risk of abuse by Garda and Defence Forces personnel.
Notes for editors:
ICCL has consistently highlighted that public trust in policing, and the effectiveness of policing, were transformed in Northern Ireland following the Good Friday Agreement through a rights-based approach. Last September we published a report setting out how human rights-based policing can be implemented in practice, authored by Alyson Kilpatrick BL who acted as Independent Human Rights Advisor to the Northern Ireland Policing Board for over seven years.
In November, ICCL submitted a report to the UN Committee Against Torture calling for ratification of the OPCAT and independent inspection of Garda stations; and swift changes to the powers and functions of the Garda complaints mechanism. The report further criticises the secrecy that characterises many investigations into alleged Garda misconduct: https://www.iccl.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/ICCL-Follow-up-report-to-UNCAT-final-23.11.18.pdf
The ICCL, together with INCLO, published a 2018 report revealing lack of transparency. oversight and legislation governing intelligence sharing agreements in Ireland and at the international level. https://www.inclo.net/pdf/press/Unanswered%20Questions%20Report.pdf. Please see also our recommendations with Privacy international: https://www.inclo.net/pdf/Intelligence-Sharing-Brochure-WEB.pdf
The ICCL made recommendations in 2017 with Digital Rights Ireland on rights compliant data retention practices: https://www.iccl.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/V3-Updated-DRI-ICCL-DR-submission-13.11.17_Website_EF-edit_EF_EF-5.pdf. While these recommendations were largely accepted by the oireachtas committee in 2018, new legislation is not yet in place and the Gardaí continue to make substantive data retention, continuing a system of mass surveillance in Ireland.
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