The Garda Síochána (Policing Authority and Miscellaneous. Provisions) Act 2015 established a new policing authority to oversee the performance of an Garda Síochána’s in the provision of its policing functions. It performs functions, many of which were formerly exercised by the government or the Minister for Justice and Equality.
The Act makes new provision for the appointment of a Garda Commissioner. The Garda Commissioner is to be appointed following nomination by the Authority on foot of a selection competition, by the Public Appointment Service. Similar provisions apply to the role of Deputy Garda Commissioner.
The Policing Authority is established by the Act in order to oversee the Garda Síochána’s functions. The Authority consists of nine members, appointed by the government, following approval of resolutions, recommending their appointments by each House of the Oireachtas. Government may designate the first chairman and first ordinary members of the Authority prior to establishment.
The process for appointment by the government of ordinary members is provided for. The Public Appointment Service must undertake selection competitions to identify and recommend persons suitable for appointment.
The term of office of members of the Authority is four years. They may be reappointed. They may not be a member for periods which exceed eight years in total. The government appoints four of the first ordinary members of the Authority for a term of three years.
Provision is made for the disqualification and ineligibility of persons for appointment.The government may remove members of Authority on specified grounds. Fair procedure requirements apply. A resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas is necessary for approval.
The functions of the Authority are to oversee the corporate governance, structures and performance of An Garda Síochána in policing. It has a number of other functions, including
- nominating persons for appointment to the government by the government as Garda Commissioner, Deputy Garda Commissioner;
- appointing persons to the ranks of superintendent, chief superintendent, and Assistant Garda Commissioner and
- removing them for reasons related to policing services;
- appointing persons to the senior positions within the Garda civilian staff;
- determining with the agreement of the Minister, Garda priorities in relation to policing services;
- approving with the agreement of the Minister, the three-year Garda strategy statement;
- approving the annual Garda policing plan with the agreement of the Minister;
- establishing a Garda code of ethics;
- promoting and supporting the continuous improvement of policing;
- exercising the Minister’s functions in relation to functions formerly exercised by the Minister in relation to joint policing committees.
The Authority may establish committees to assist it and advise it in the performance of its functions, and to perform any functions delegated by the Authority. The Authority may retain consultants and advisors to assist it in the performance of its functions.
The Authority must prepare a statutory statement and an annual report.
There are provisions for appointment of a chief executive staff and for remuneration and superannuation.
The chief executive is responsible to the Committee on Public Expenditure and other Oireachtas Committees in respect of the accounts of the Authority and its general administration.
The former provision regarding removal of the Garda Commissioner, Deputy Garda Commissioner, Assistant Garda Commissioner, superintendents and chief Superintendents was amended. The Government continues to be responsible for removal of persons from the ranks of Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner. However, it is open to the Authority under the new arrangements to recommend to the government, the removal of the Garda Commissioner and Deputy Garda Commissioner for stated reasons.
The Authority is in a position to remove Assistant Garda Commissioners, chief superintendents and superintendents for stated reasons relating to different policing services. This is subject to fair procedures provided for under the legislation.
The legislation sets out the procedures which must be followed where it is proposed to remove the persons from offices above.The legislation provides that the consent of the Authority rather than the government is required for summary dismissal by the Garda Commissioner of any ranks of persons not above Inspector.
The Authority has responsibility in relation to training, powers and duties of reserve members of An Garda Síochána. The Authority may establish code of ethics for Garda Síochána within 12 months. The code shall apply with necessary modifications to the civilian staff of An Garda Síochána.
The Authority is given a general role in the appointment of civilian staff. It shall appoint senior members of the civilian staff of the Garda Síochána equivalent to or above the rank of chief superintendent.
Part 3 of the 2015 Act provides for the relationship between the Authority, the Minister and the Garda Commissioner. The Garda Commissioner is to assist and co-operate with the Authority in order to facilitate performance of its functions.
The Authority with the approval of the Minister, is to set priorities and performance targets for An Garda Síochána in policing services. The Minister may set and revise the performance and priorities for the Garda Síochána in relation to security services.
The Authority may approve with the consent of the Minister, a three-year strategy statement for An Garda Síochána. The Authority may approve with the consent of the Minister, Annual Policing Plans.
Three year reviews are to be prepared by the Garda Commissioner and submitted to the Authority. The Garda Commissioner is to provide to the Authority, annual reports on the activities of the Garda Professional Standards Unit.
The Authority may recommend to the Minister that a directive concerning a particular matter relating to policing be issued to An Garda Siochana with the approval of the government. The Minister may, following government approval, issue directives to the Authority concerning any matter relating to policing services that falls within its responsibility.
The Authority and the Garda Commissioner are to make arrangements to obtain the views of the general public in relation to policing service matters. Before so doing, the Garda Commissioner requires the approval of the Authority.
The Minister may authorise a Deputy Garda Commissioner or Assistant Garda Commissioner to perform the functions of Garda Commissioner during his or her absence or a vacancy in office. The Authority is to be notified of such an authorisation.
Where a Deputy Garda Commissioner or Assistant Garda Commissioner is performing the functions of Garda Commissioner, the removal provisions applicable to the Garda Commissioner apply.
The Authority, instead of the Minister is to issue guidelines concerning the establishment and maintenance of joint policing committees and local police forums. The Authority may convene meetings of the chairpersons and other members, as the Authority considers appropriate, of joint policing committees, for the purpose of coordination of their functions.
The Authority may perform functions formerly carried out by the Minister in relation to community CCTV schemes.
The Garda Commissioner is to keep the Authority informed of matters relating to his function and other matters that in the opinion of the Commissioner ought to be brought to its attention.The Minister is to inform the Authority of any matters relating to policing services that might be contained in a report submitted to the Minister by the Garda Commissioner on foot of a request.
The Authority may request Garda Síochána to submit a report to it on any matter relating to policing services and the Commissioner must comply.The Authority may request the Minister to initiate an inquiry into any aspect of the administration, operation, practice and procedure of An Garda Síochána or conduct of its members, where the matter gives rise to the need for an inquiry relating to policing services.
Where the Minister does not initiate an inquiry, on foot of a request, it must inform the Authority of its reasons for not so doing. The Minister must consult with the Authority in relation to any inquiry that encompasses policing services. The Authority must also be consulted regarding the terms of reference of any inquiry that relates to policing services.
The Authority is to appoint members of the Garda Audit Committee. It may remove the members for stated reasons. The Audit Committee’s annual report is to be forwarded to the Authority and the Minister.
The Garda Commissioner is to submit an annual report to the Authority and policing services. The Authority will cause a copy of the report to be furnished to the Minister who is to lay it before the Houses of the Oireachtas.
The Authority with the approval of the government may appoint members PSNI to ranks of An Garda Síochána not above Assistant Garda Commissioner and not below superintendent. The Authority with the approval of the government may approve the secondment of members of PSNI to a rank in the Garda Síochána, not above Garda Commissioner and not below superintendent. The Authority with the approval of the government may terminate the secondments.
The Authority has a role in procedures dealing with breaches of discipline by members of the Garda Síochána seconded to the PSNI. The Garda Commissioner is obliged to inform the Authority, in addition to the Minister of the transmission of any documents to the PSNI relating to breach by a PSNI member appointed to the Garda Síochána.
Provision is made to facilitate the informal resolution of complaints against Garda members and to permit the Authority to request the Garda Síochána Ombudsmen Commission and Garda Síochána Inspectorate to investigate and carry out inspections in relation to matters concerning policing services.
Included amongst objectives of the Garda Síochána Ombudsmen Commission is the promotion and encouragement of the use of mediation and other forms of informal means of resolving certain types of complaints against Garda members.
The Garda Síochána Ombudsmen Commission is obliged to consult with the Garda Commissioner in relation to issuing guidelines relating to mediation and other informal means of complaint resolution.
The Authority may request GSOC to investigate any matter relating to policing services that gives rise to a concern that a member of the Garda Síochána may have committed an offence or behaved in a manner that would justify disciplinary proceedings.
The Authority may subject to the consent of the Minister, request GSOC to investigate certain matters relating to the conduct of the Garda Commissioner. Where the Minister does not consent to the request, he must give reasons for refusing to do so.
The GSOC must keep the Authority informed of the progress and results of an investigation within its remit.
The time for instituting a summary proceedings offence, reported to the DPP by GSOC is increased to 18 months.
The Authority may request GSOC to examine practices, policies and procedures in the Garda Síochána, in respect of policing service.
The Authority may request the Garda Síochána Inspector to initiate an inspection or inquiry in relation to aspects of the operation and administration of the Garda Síochána relating to policing services.
The Authority at the request of the Minister may monitor and assess measures taken by An Garda Síochána in relation to recommendations contained in a report prepared by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate and submit it.
The Minister shall consult with the Authority prior to making regulations. Existing regulations are continued in force.
The Minister is to consult with the Authority as well as the Garda Commissioner, GSOC and the Garda Síochána Inspectorate prior to making regulations under particular provisions. Regulations under other provisions require consultation with the Authority and Garda Commissioner.