A disciplinary regime is an integral part of all police force. The Garda Síochána disciplinary rules are found in statutory instruments.
The Garda Síochána as a whole is under the general direction and control of the Commissioner. There is a hierarchy of ranks which implicitly marks out authority and control over lower ranking members.
The Commissioner has the power of dismissing, suspending and the demoting ranks up to Inspector. The exercise of this power is subject to disciplinary regulations. As any such action would have impact on a Garda’s livelihood and reputation, procedure requirements and standards of constitutional justice apply.
Many of the issues that arise in ordinary employment law arise in the context of members of Garda Síochána. See the chapters on grievance, discipline and conduct issues in the context of employment, generally.
It is not practice or proper for the Government, Minister or Department of Justice to intervene in Garda disciplinary matters. The authority lies with the Commissioner and the force itself.
The disciplinary regulations contain a code of offences. They contain a range of “offences” from the mild to the most serious. Breaches of the code are breaches of discipline and may be subject to sanction. Sanctions may comprise pay reduction, reprimand, dismissal, demotion, caution. There may be sideways or downward placements. Generally, a sanction may be imposed, only after an inquiry established under the procedure in the regulations.
Discreditable conduct is an “offence” under the cod. It is conduct which the member knows or ought to know would be prejudicial to discipline or reasonably likely to bring discredit on the Gardai. This is relatively subjective and will depend on the Commissioner and Garda Siochana’s own assessment of what is required to maintain discipline. The acts concerned may cover and include a wide variety of acts, omissions and circumstance. The context will be of importance. The offence may cover a range of the most serious offences.
Misconduct towards a member of the force is an “offence” under the code. This may comprised an assault, oppression or insubordinate conduct, use of abusive or insulting language.
Oppressive conduct is an “offence” under the code. It may comprise harassment and, unreasonable or like behaviour. It is implicitly limited to an action against a member in respect of whom the Garda is in a position of authority.
Neglect of duty is an “offence” under the code. It may comprises a number of sub-offences including
- failure or neglecting to carry out a lawful order,
- carrying out another an order in a negligent manner,
- failing or neglecting to do any other thing that is the member\’s duty to do,
- doing duty in a negligent matter,
- failing or neglecting properly to account for any money or property received in a capacity as a member.
They above classes of offences may range from dishonesty to carelessness in undertaking duty.
Disobedience without good and sufficient cause of any lawful order is an “offence” under the code.
Falsehood and prevarication is an “offence” under the code. It may arise in relation to documents and records. It may arise in the context of statements which ultimately form parts of records or non-completion inaccurate or false completion of records. The member must know that the relevant statements or entries are false.
Breach of confidence is an “offence” under the code. It covers information coming to a member in the course of its duty. It may emanates in the force itself, government bodies or departments, or members of the public. It does not cover information learned privately. It is implicit is that the information should not be public. Breach of confidence entails principally, unpermitted communication of confidential information.
Corrupt and the improper practices are “offences” under the code. They covers a range of dishonest practices, such as .
- soliciting and receiving payments, gifts and testimonials other than those customarily given on occasions such as retirement etc.,
- soliciting or receiving a benefit as a result of his position, as an inducement not to enforce law or to enforce law against others.
- allowing himself to be under a monetary obligation to another in circumstances that may affect his ability to discharge his duty,
- improperly using his position for private advantage. This may involve seeking or obtaining preferential treatment by reason of membership of an in Garda Síochána.
- creating unauthorised testimonials that support any applications for a licence or a certificate, for intoxicating liquor, betting or gaming.
- wilfully without good and sufficient cause failing to pay a lawful debt in circumstances which are likely to affect the member\’s ability to discharge his duties.
- signing also creating a petition relating to matters concerning the force other than those to be presented to superiors either directly or through a representative body; the purpose is to ensure that matters of internal grievance are dealt with internally and not through lobbying and petition.
A further category of “offences” under the code relate to abuse of authority. They include
- failing to behave with due courtesy to members of the public.
- arresting without good and sufficient cause.
- using unnecessary violence in the execution of duty.
It is an offence to neglect health by a culpable act for example by way of sickness calculated to delay return to duty. This may include the failure to follow medical advice and self-inflicted injuries.
Untidiness on duty or in uniform without good and sufficient cause is an “offence” under the code. It also applies while not on duty but wearing a uniform.
Misuse of Garda property is an “offence” under the code. It covers misappropriation, wilfully or carelessly misusing, wasting losing or damaging any property or failing without good and sufficient cause to report any misuse, waste, loss, or damage.
- It is an offence under the code to be unfit for duty due to the effects of drink or drug.
- It is an offence under the code without good and sufficient cause to take intoxicating liquor when on duty.
- It is an offence under the code to enter a licensed premises without good and sufficient cause while on duty or while not on duty but wearing a uniform. This also applies to betting and gaming premises.
- It is offence under the code to identify actively or publicly with political parties. The offence covers any political activity.
- It is an offence under the code to behave in relation to political matters in such a manner and circumstance that give rise to a reasonable apprehension in the public in relation to impartiality in the discharge of duties.
- It is an offence under the code to engage whether for reward or otherwise in any activity which though not mentioned in the above offences is prohibited by the Commissioner either by general or special directive as being likely to interfere with the discharge of duties or give rise to a reasonable apprehension among members of the public in relation to impartiality or as being for good and stated reasons, inappropriate for members to engage in.
- A criminal conviction constitutes misconduct under the code.
- It is an offence under the code to fail to cooperate with a disciplinary investigation. It is an offence under the code to be an accessory to another’s breach of discipline. This involves conniving or knowingly being an accessory to a breach.
The regulations prescribe a formal procedure. However, the Commissioner or other senior members with responsibility for supervision may deal informally with a breach of discipline of a minor nature. A minor breach may be dealt with by advice, warning or other sanctions. Alternatively, the formal procedure could be applied to a minor offence.
The regulations provide that a breach of discipline is to be investigated by an investigating officer. The investigating officer must be of a rank not lower than that of an Inspector and be appointed by the appointing officer who is not to be below the rank of Chief Superintendent.
The investigating officer informs the member concerned in writing that he appears to be concerned in a breach of discipline which is being investigated. The nature of the breach must be specified. The nature of the investigation will depend on the offence. If the member is guilty of a criminal offence it will be treated as an investigation of an offence.
The investigating officer has considerable discretion in relation to the manner in which the investigation is carried out Generally the investigating officer\’s investigation report will be submitted to the appointing officer.
If the member does not admit the offence or breach or if it cannot be dealt with informally, the matter may be sent to the Commissioner who may decide to discontinue or institute an inquiry. The Commissioner may direct that the investigating officer undertakes further inquiries in certain circumstances. He may require the member to co-operate including answering questions, furnishing information, and producing documents. Any member may be required to give evidence. Failure to cooperate is itself a disciplinary offence.
On completion of the investigation, the investigating officer must submit a written report together with statements to the appointing officer. The latter must decide whether to continue the proceedings. A member is entitled to disclosure of the case against him including
- copies of the disciplinary forms,
- names of witnesses,
- copies of their statements,
- particulars of information to be used
- indication of the nature or source of information in relation to a matter which has come to the attention of the investigation which may be favourable to the member concerned and of which he may be unaware.
The member must be informed of his options. He may admit or deny the breach. He may admit the facts and other particulars but deny that they constitute a breach of breach of discipline. He may deny the breach or admit facts which constitute a different breach.
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