Dublin, 14 September 2018
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) today launched a report by the former human rights advisor to the Policing Board of Northern Ireland, Alyson Kilpatrick, on how and why a human rights based approach to Garda reform should be implemented.
Director of the ICCL, Liam Herrick, said:
This is a pivotal moment for policing in Ireland. We commissioned Alyson to write this report because it is clear that, up to this point, An Garda Síochána (AGS) has never fully embraced human rights standards and values. This was evidenced, yet again, by serious concerns arising from the Garda operation on Tuesday night at an eviction on Frederick St. This report makes the compelling argument that taking human rights seriously at all levels of Irish policing will have profound benefits for Gardaí and for the communities they serve.
Referencing the imminent publication of the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing, Mr Herrick continued:
There will be a comprehensive Garda reform process arising from the Commission on the Future of Policing. This ICCL report provides a blueprint for how to deliver radical overhaul of Irish policing around human rights principles, drawing on the experience of the transformation of policing culture and practice in Northern Ireland. While of course the Gardaí do not have all of the problems that have historically beset policing in Northern Ireland, there are many practical lessons we can learn from the experience there.
In her analysis of current Garda policy and practice, Kilpatrick finds that there is a serious gap in human rights compliance in a number of areas including the policing of protest, investigation of hate crime, stop-and-search practices, State security, and the treatment of people in Garda detention.
She signals particular problems with the oversight and accountability mechanisms of State security, recommending that AGS should develop, and publish, written policy on all covert activity. Where they cannot be published for security reasons, Kilpatrick recommends that these policies be made accessible to a human rights legal expert in the Policing Authority.
Kilpatrick also highlights problems with Garda use of force. Her report notes that the Gardaí likely use pepper spray at a higher rate than the Metropolitan Police or the PSNI, but she states that it is difficult to tell given the lack of statistics available. Kilpatrick recommends recording all circumstances of deployments of weapons or use of force, together with an explanation of the circumstances, location of use, outcome and the identity of the garda(í) involved. She further recommends sharing this information with the Policing Authority and publishing all related statistics.
Ms Kilpatrick said:
If implemented correctly, a rights-based approach will not only protect the people that the gardaí come into contact with, but it will protect Gardaí themselves by positively transforming policy, practice and philosophy. It also provides a roadmap for An Garda Síochána to fulfill their legal obligations, and their own mission statement, and become a rights-compliant police force which keeps the best interests of all the people it comes into contact with, including Gardaí themselves, at heart.
The guide makes recommendations in a number of areas, including a complete overhaul of training; an emphasis on making the force more diverse and representative of the Irish population; inspections of all places of detention; publication of policies and statistics where possible; and management restructuring. First and foremost, however, Kilpatrick says the will for reform must be present across all levels of An Garda Síochána.
The PSNI is now regarded as a worldwide leading example of how transformative a rights-based approach is. Human-rights based reform is not easy, but it is worth it. An Garda Síochána must commit itself entirely to this worthwhile process for the sake of the people of Ireland.
Here is the full text of Alyson Kilpatrick’s ground-breaking report: A Human Rights Based Approach to Policing in Ireland.
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