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Landmark Policing, Security & Community Safety Bill 2023 Begins Its Legislative Journey.

This Bill has four main objectives:

  • Making the prevention of harm and protection of people, who are vulnerable or at risk, an objective of An Garda Síochána and making the safety of communities a ‘whole of government responsibility.
  • Strengthening and consolidating independent, external oversight of An Garda Síochána.
  • Enhancing the internal governance of An Garda Síochána and the role of the Garda Commissioner as Chief Executive Officer [CEO or highest-ranking officer].
  • Improving the independent oversight of our national security infrastructure.

The Minister for Justice, Mr Simon Harris TD, is pleased to announce that the landmark ‘Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill 2023’ is being debated at Second Stage in Dáil Éireann today, marking the beginning of its legislative journey. The Minister of State with responsibility for Law Reform and Youth Justice, James Browne TD, introduced the Bill to the Dáil today on the Minister’s behalf.

The Bill will deliver on many recommendations made by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland (CoFPI), marking a new departure for policing in Ireland. It provides a comprehensive and robust framework of accountability, governance and oversight of policing and security and a new approach to community safety, focused on the need for collaboration and co-ordination between various State agencies.

Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “This landmark Bill provides a new framework for policing, security and community safety in Ireland; as recommended by the Commission on the Future of Policing.

It has been developed following extensive consultation with key stakeholders, including An Garda Síochána and the policing oversight bodies, and takes into account the recommendations made by the Justice Committee in its Pre-Legislative Scrutiny Report and the submissions that were made by a range of contributors during that process.

An Garda Síochána play a frontline role in preventing and addressing crime, but the sometimes more unrecognised element of their work is the role they play in preventing harm in communities, particularly harm to vulnerable people; including those suffering from acute mental health issues, addiction issues and homelessness.

Building safer and stronger communities by preventing crime and preventing harm is not and cannot be the responsibility of An Garda Síochána alone. It is a shared responsibility across Government, and it requires the buy-in and collaboration of other Departments and agencies such as health and social services, local authorities and the wider community working together to really effect change. So while this Bill will make the prevention of harm a clear objective of An Garda Síochána, it will also set in statute the cross-Government responsibility for community safety.

The Bill introduces a package of measures to ensure that the oversight framework for policing is coherent; supporting clear and effective accountability and ultimately better policing. It provides for the establishment of a new Policing and Community Safety Authority which will merge the existing broad – ranging functions of the Policing Authority and the inspection function of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, building on their good work to date.

The Bill also provides for reformed processes and procedures for the handling and investigation of allegations of Garda wrongdoing in a new Office of the Police Ombudsman, which will strengthen the mandate of the existing Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

We are also strengthening internal governance by establishing a new non-executive Board of An Garda Síochána. The Board will oversee the strategic direction of the organisation including the development of the capacity, capability and optimum use of resources and ensuring compliance with An Garda Síochána’s public sector duty under human rights and equality legislation. The Board will also oversee arrangements for managing the performance of the Garda Commissioner. However, the Board’s role will not extend to operational policing or security matters which remain within the remit and functional independence of the Garda Commissioner.
Finally, the Bill will improve the oversight of national security arrangements in the State through the establishment of an Independent Examiner of security legislation.
This was a key recommendation of the Commission’s report, which recognised that responsibility for the security of the State did not rest solely in An Garda Síochána, and is modelled to a large extent on similar oversight mechanisms internationally.
I look forward to working with all colleagues in the House to enact this important legislation this year, with a view to having it commenced in January 2024.”

When enacted, the Bill will repeal the Garda Síochána Act 2005 (as amended) in its entirety.

Implementation of the Bill is progressing in parallel with its legislative journey. The Department is already engaged in planning and coordinating this vital work, in conjunction with our Agency partners, so that the provisions and the new bodies can be put in place promptly on the Bill’s commencement.

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