Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has voiced “serious concerns” about new legislation drafted as part of Government plans to reform the Garda and its oversight agencies.
The Irish Times reports that Mr Harris told the joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice that the reforms planned by the Government were “draconian” and marked by an “absence of clarity”.
He critiqued the Government’s Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill in a submission to the committee as part of the pre-legislative scrutiny process.
“As it is currently drafted, the scheme falls well short of our shared ambition for a transparent, accountable, trusted and effective policing service for the future,” he said.
While Mr Harris welcomed the creation of a new Garda board, he said the lack of clarity about how it would overlap with the new Policing and Community Safety Authority risked “encroaching on the operational independence” of the office of Garda Commissioner.
The Garda Commissioner was also critical of “disproportionate” new powers being given to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc), which investigates allegations of wrongdoing against Garda members.
The powers would be legally challenged by Garda members placed under investigation. That litigation was likely to prove successful on the basis “the very foundational principles of constitutional fairness” had been “transgressed”.
The response from Mr Harris is problematic for Government, as he was appointed three years ago to implement Garda reform recommended by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.
In response to queries, the Department of Justice said “significant organisational reform, including institutional change, culture and work practices, is always challenging”.
Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys had “discussed it with the commissioner and will continue to do so”.