Dublin, 30 January 2018
In a report calling for radical reform of the entire system of policing in Ireland, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has called for human rights to become the cornerstone of the current process of reform of An Garda Síochána. The report, entitled “Rights-based policing: How do we get there?” is ICCL’s submission to the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, which has been gathering ideas from all sectors of Irish society as to the direction and nature of reform.
Rather than focus on what it refers to as “the many human rights abuses committed over the years”, or any of the various crises besetting the force at the moment, the ICCL submission looks to the systemic changes needed to overhaul Irish policing.
Liam Herrick, director of the ICCL, said,
“We are of course more than aware of the problems dogging the Gardaí, and the outstanding issues which require just resolution. However, we focus here on the underlying structural issues which have caused these scandals and human rights abuses to recur. The message of our submission is that a process of reform directed at cultural change within the Garda must be undertaken, and that this process must be underpinned by clear and enforceable human rights standards and guaranteed by effective and resourced oversight bodies. Our submission sets out the case for holistic and radical reform of all levels of policing – changes in law, changes in oversight, and changes in culture. The lesson of the last 20 years is that reform in individual areas of policing or reforms which omit either Garda culture or systems of legal enforcement will be partial and unsuccessful.
“As an example, we call for better legal protection for the rights of suspects, including access to a lawyer during interview, as well as calling for an investment in human rights training of gardaí who conduct interviews. Such approaches have led to significant change in many European countries and legal safeguards of this type would have prevented many of the worst cases of Garda misconduct over the years.
The submission echoes recent reports by the Policing Authority and GSOC in stating that the current architecture of Garda oversight is cumbersome and ineffective. It calls for a “thorough review of the relationship between the Policing Authority, the Minister and the Department of Justice, and An Garda Síochána”, as well as for better resourcing and more powers for GSOC.
The ICCL makes four groups of recommendations:
1. The creation of a comprehensive framework for embedding human rights in all aspects of policing
2. Strengthening of accountability to the public through greater transparency, legal accountability, and independent oversight
3. Reform of the laws and oversight mechanisms concerning surveillance and use of personal data, including in the area of ‘state security’ operations
4. Fostering a culture of respect for human rights and equality
In doing so, it acknowledges that efforts for reform have been many and genuine over the past fifteen years, but suggests that, rather than taking a trickle-down approach to reform, human-rights based reform should take place at every operational level. The report refers to the Patten process, which reformed policing so radically in the North, as a roadmap for this radical vision for change.
“The last set of recommendations, on changing the culture”, said Mr. Herrick, “are crucial in that none of the other recommendations will come to fruition without the buy-in of every level of the organisation, the Department of Justice, and politicians. We are at a key moment when the political will for change appears to be real and the public demand for action is deafening. We think that with proper resourcing and education, much needed radical reform is entirely possible.
The report will be launched in Dublin tonight, at an event which will be addressed by speakers from the Commission on the Future of Policing, GSOC, the Policing Authority, the Garda Inspectorate and An Garda Síochána itself.