[Sinn Fein]

13th November 2002

Garda complaints - `No more settlements behind closed doors' demands Sinn Fein

Sinn Fein spokesperson on Justice Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on the Minister for Justice to introduce guidelines or legislation that will bring an end to the practice of Gardaí making out of court settlements with people who have persisted in pursuing complaints against them.

The Dublin South Central TD made his comments as the Garda Complaints Board released it's annual report. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

``It is absolutely unacceptable that millions of euro of taxpayers money are spent making out of court settlements in cases involving complaints against members of the Gardaí. It is also unacceptable that this practice means that these cases never see the light of day. Not only are elected representatives but the public in general are being kept in the dark about what are very serious matters. It is imperative that all complaints against members of the Gardaí are investigated rigorously by an independent and impartial body. That body must have as part of it's remit to make public the findings and what actions were taken where complaints against members of the force are upheld.

``The failure to do this in the past and the practice of buying off complainants has meant that the force is open to accusations of cover-up and of being unwilling to accept the consequences of the actions of its members.''

Responding further to the substance of the Garda Complainants Boards annual report Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

``I don't think you can read too much into this report other than to say it offers an excellent reason for getting rid of the Board and for appointing an independent and impartial complaints procedure. It is clear from both anecdotal evidence and from the hard evidence that is emerging from the Morris Tribunal that the practice of Gardaí investigating Gardaí is not only flawed but goes against everything that could be construed as being in the public interest.

``We must face up to the fact that there is corruption, wrong doing and bad practice within the Gardaí at many levels and ranks that reaches all the way to the top. This must be tackled if we are to restore public confidence in the force. An independent and impartial Ombudsman to investigate complaints against the force is a first step in restoring that confidence. Sinn Fein has long been calling for this and will continue to do so.''

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