Transparency International Ireland (TI Ireland) has called on the Department of Justice to address concerns about the “Independent Review Mechanism” which set up in the wake of the Guerin Report last year. The mechanism was established to examine allegations of Garda misconduct or inadequacies in the investigation of allegations of serious criminal offences. The review was subject to an RTÉ Prime Time report which was aired earlier this week.
Over the past year, TI Ireland has heard from four affected individuals through its “Speak Up” helpline service. “Those who contacted us include bereaved family members, such as Lucia O’Farrell – whose son, Shane, was killed in a hit-and-run,” said Susheela Math, Legal Counsel at TI Ireland.
They have a number of concerns about the mechanism, including:
- an absence of publicly available terms of reference
- the lack of a formal invitation to victims to submit documentation and/or oral evidence to the panel
- confusion over the evidence which was made available to the panel
- and an indeterminate reporting timescale
“We also believe a conflict of interest arose in the case of Shane O’Farrell, as one of the two senior counsels on the review panel had previously acted for the accused during criminal proceedings.
“We have highlighted these issues to the Department of Justice and explained that trust was already at a low ebb for these individuals, given their past experiences and the wider allegations of Garda misconduct which made headlines last year. A transparent framework needs to be put in place to deal with what happens next, if the public are to have confidence in the criminal justice system”, added Ms Math.
TI Ireland operates the Speak Up helpline for whistleblowers, as well as witnesses and victims of fraud, corruption and other official malpractice. The free-phone helpline (1800 844 866) is open from 10am to 6pm Monday to Friday.
The Speak Up helpline will soon be operated by a new Transparency Legal Advice Centre, Ireland’s first independent law centre providing free specialist legal advice for whistleblowers. The Centre will be launched this winter.