Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) or Garda Ombudsman is the independent, statutory agency that deals with complaints from the general public about members of the Garda Síochána (the Irish police force). It was established under the Garda Síochána Act 2005. The Garda Ombudsman replaced the Garda Síochána Complaints Board from May 2007, but has a substantially expanded role.
The Garda Síochána Act 2005 also legislated for the Garda Síochána Inspectorate which was established in July 2006. It, however, deals with the overall policing performance of the Garda Síochána with regard to its operation and administration and it advises on best policing practice.
Who can make a complaint?
Anyone can make a complaint to the Garda Ombudsman about the behaviour of a Garda. You must, however, have either witnessed the incident in question or been directly affected by it. You can make a complaint on behalf of someone else provided you have the person's consent, orally or in writing. You can also make a complaint on behalf of someone else who is unable to give consent due to the person's age or incapacity.
While no lower age limit applies, it is generally expected that a complaint from a child or young person would be made by a parent, guardian or responsible adult.
How soon must a complaint be made?
Complaints must be made within 12 months of the incident, although, the Garda Ombudsman may extend the time limit if there are good reasons.
How do I make a complaint?
You can make a complaint by calling in person, by writing or by emailing to the Garda Ombudsman's offices. You can also make a complaint by calling to any Garda station. No matter how you make your complaint you will be asked to complete a complaint form (GSOC 1).
You can also make a complaint online through its website.
You will receive an acknowledgement from the Garda Ombudsman once the form has been received.
Does the Garda Ombudsman investigate all complaints?
On receiving your complaint the Garda Ombudsman must decide whether your complaint is admissible and that it can handle your complaint. To be admissible a complaint must be:
- Made by someone who is entitled to complain
- About conduct by a Garda that could be considered misbehaviour
- Made within the acceptable time limit
A complaint is not considered admissible if it is false or misleading. If your complaint is not considered admissible you will be informed of this in writing.
If the Garda Ombudsman accepts your complaint as admissible, it may be handled in one of four different ways.
- Informal resolution or mediation
- Garda investigation
- Garda investigation under Garda Ombudsman supervision
- Investigation by the Garda Ombudsman
When is a complaint handled through informal resolution or mediation?
If your complaint is considered less serious it may be decided to resolve it through mediation or informal resolution. Both you and the Garda must agree to the complaint being dealt with in this way. You can request a formal investigation at any stage.
The Garda Ombudsman has developed guidelines for the resolution of complaints through mediation or other informal means. If it is decided to try and resolve your complaint by informal means, this may be undertaken by a Garda Ombudsman Case Officer or by a Garda of supervisory rank. If it is decided to use mediation the Garda Ombudsman will nominate a trained mediator. You may ask for a different mediator.
If your case is resolved informally no record of the complaint is kept on the Garda's personnel file. No statement made during the course of the informal resolution or mediation can be used in any civil or criminal proceedings, including disciplinary procedures.
If it is decided to investigate my complaint who will do it?
The Garda Ombudsman may decide to refer your complaint to the Garda Commissioner for investigation by the Gardaí to see if there was a breach of discipline under Garda disciplinary regulations. The Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations 2007 (SI 214 of 2007) are available here. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the Garda investigation you can ask the Garda Ombudsman to review your case.
The Garda Ombudsman may decide to supervise a Garda investigation of your complaint. In this case the Gardaí report on the progress of the investigation to the Garda Ombudsman, in accordance with agreed guidelines. The Garda Ombudsman can direct the Garda investigation, as it sees fit, and it can take over the investigation if it wants to.
The Garda Ombudsman may decide to investigate your complaint itself and usually does in the case of serious complaints. It always does so where a complaint involves the death of, or serious harm to, someone due to a Garda operation, or while in Garda custody or care.
What happens if my complaint is found to be justified?
If it is found that there was a breach of discipline under Garda disciplinary regulations, the Garda Ombudsman can recommend disciplinary proceedings to the Garda Commissioner. If it is felt that criminal proceedings should be considered the Garda Ombudsman can send a file on the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
If there is not enough evidence to support either of these actions, the case may be dismissed. The Garda Ombudsman has no powers to impose penalties or sanctions itself.
Can I make a complaint about an off-duty Garda?
The Garda Ombudsman does not deal with complaints about the behaviour of an off-duty Garda unless the behaviour complained of is likely to bring discredit on the Gardaí. It also investigates where the conduct of an off-duty Garda may have resulted in the death of, or serious harm to, someone.
Can I make a complaint against a former Garda?
The Garda Ombudsman may deal with a complaint against a former Garda even if the Garda resigns or retires after you make your complaint. If the complaint is about conduct that could be considered a breach of discipline the investigation is discontinued, providing it is not considered necessary or practical, given the circumstances, to continue. However, if the complaint is about criminal behaviour the investigation is continued.
Are there any penalties for making a false complaint?
It is an offence to provide false or misleading information in connection with a complaint or investigation and you are liable on conviction to a class C fine or imprisonment for up to 6 months, or both.
Does the Garda Ombudsman carry out investigations without receiving a complaint?
If it feels that it is in the public interest, the Garda Ombudsman can, without receiving a complaint, investigate any matter that appears to indicate that a Garda may have committed a criminal offence or behaved in a way that would justify disciplinary proceedings. It also investigates any matter that appears to indicate that the conduct of a Garda may have resulted in the death of, or serious harm to, someone.
The Garda Ombudsman may also investigate the practices, policies and procedures of the Gardaí, if requested to do so by the Minister for Justice and Equalty, and make recommendations in order to reduce or eliminate complaints.
How to apply
If you wish to make a complaint about any member of the Gardaí to the Garda Ombudsman you may do this in several ways:
- By completing an online complaint form
- By posting complaint form (GSOC 1) to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission
- By emailing complaint form (GSOC 1) to firstname.lastname@example.org
- By calling to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission office or to any Garda station – you will be asked to complete complaint form (GSOC 1)