Dublin, 18 September 2018
ICCL welcomes CFP emphasis on rights, makes recommendations for implementation
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has warmly welcomed the strong focus on human rights in the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing (CFP), particularly its First Principle that, “Human Rights are the foundation and purpose of policing”. Our submission to the CFP in January 2018 called for respect for human rights to be the grounding principle of Garda reform, and indeed such an approach has been a priority for ICCL for many years. There are four areas of this report which we believe are warrant particular attention, namely: policing functions, accountability, national security, and implementation.
Welcoming the approach taken in the report, ICCL Executive Director Liam Herrick said:
“The emphasis on human rights in the Commission’s report marks a sea-change in how we understand policing in Ireland. We believe the vision outlined in the report, if implemented, will support a radical reform process which can deliver the changes needed in An Garda Síochána.
We look forward to seeing the implementation of a human rights-based approach at all levels of Irish policing, including by the creation of an internal Garda Human Rights Unit with responsibility for overseeing all areas of policing, and the appointment of independent Human Rights Advisors to all oversight bodies.”
The CFP report calls for a radical shift in how Gardaí understand their role and how the organisation itself is oriented. it places a welcome emphasis on community-based policing and partnerships, and on supporting Garda employees in their work and ensuring diversity within the organisation. ICCL welcomes the recommendations for ongoing human rights training, as well as the call for a review of the Garda discipline rules and procedures in order to better incorporate the Garda Code of Ethics.
Throughout the report, there is a commitment to clarify the role of the police, and focusing on the front-line and community functions of the Garda. The CFP’s recommendations that Gardaí should withdraw from prosecuting crimes, controlling immigration, serving warrants and providing prison escorts are all highly significant in this regard. These measures will vastly improve relations between Gardaí and disadvantaged communities they work with.
Mr. Herrick stated:
“The Commission’s recommendation that Gardaí should longer prosecute cases in court is a particularly important one. The separation of policing and prosecution is a core requirement of the European Code of Police Ethics and is based on the need to safeguard the right to a fair trial. This change will free up Garda resources but will also require investment in the prosecution service.”
Accountability is a welcome focus of the CFP report. ICCL agrees with the CFP that the new Policing and Community Safety Oversight Commission (PCSOC) should have a Human Rights Adviser to assist its work. We will be calling on the Government to give this independent body strong statutory powers of inspection, including unannounced inspection, as a way of implementing the State’s legal obligations to protect the rights of people who are deprived of their liberty in all settings. We also believe that the PCSOC’s functions should include the regular publication of data relating to policing operations as well as crime. For example, disaggregated statistics should be published regularly on the Gardaí’s use of force and Stop and Search powers.
We are very glad to see the CFP’s recommendation that the body that replaces GSOC – the Independent Office of the Police Ombudsman (IOPO) – should independently investigate all complaints falling within its remit, with no recourse to Garda investigators.
Mr Herrick stated:
“An effective police independent complaints system is an essential safeguard for the protection of human rights. ICCL has been calling for significant changes to the powers and functions of GSOC for many years, and we welcome the proposals for a new and stronger Ombudsman body. ICCL will also closely monitor the review of the Garda discipline regulations to ensure that they adequately address human rights violations by Gardaí.”
The CFP has rightly called for greater clarity and coherence in the area of national security operations. ICCL welcomes the recommendation for a ‘comprehensive and robust review of the legislative framework’. We believe that the creation of a national Strategic Threat Analysis Centre (STAC) would be a step towards ensuring that national security operations are accountable to the public and the rule of law, in that the public would hopefully gain from it a clearer understanding of who participates in national security operations and what they do.
However, national security policing still needs to be subject to robust independent oversight. This area of policing is not exempt from the State’s human rights obligations. Our recently commissioned report by Alyson Kilpatrick BL describes how independent oversight of the STAC’s activities could be achieved. That report also recommends that the Independent Reviewer of STAC has a human rights advisor and sufficient technical expert support.
Mr. Herrick stated:
“While we welcome the recommendations to establish new structures for national security monitoring and coordination, a key challenge remains to ensure effective oversight of national security activities. As new bodies are established, ICCL will be focused on ensuring that the new oversight bodies having the capacity and powers to oversee state security policing.”
Perhaps the most important chapter of this report is the final one which calls for a robust implementation structure be put in place to ensure that these recommendations are given effect over a fixed timeline of three years. Given the plethora of reports on Garda reform over the years, this may be where this report will stand out from the crowd.
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 week the ICCL 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.
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Sinéad Nolan: firstname.lastname@example.org 087 4157162