Human Rights and Policing in Ireland: Law, Policy and Practice

Human Rights and Policing in Ireland: Law, Policy and Practice


This book assesses Garda powers, practices and processes for compliance with international best practice in human rights standards.


Author: Dermot Walsh | Format: Paper Back (978-1-905536-20-7) and Hardback (978-1-905536-23-8)
Price: PB €99 or HB €185 | Page Count approx 900 | Publication Date: 4th March 2009


This book assesses Garda powers, practices and processes for compliance with international best practice in human rights standards. It offers a unique critique of the law, policy and practice on policing in Ireland from a human rights perspective.

It consists of three substantive parts:

Part I is a major contribution to the literature on human rights and policing generally. It offers a detailed and comprehensive account of human rights standards applicable to key aspects of policing such as:

  • arrest;
  • detention;
  • interrogation;
  • right of access to legal advice and medical treatment;
  • taking bodily samples;
  • stop and question/search;
  • entry, search and seizure;
  • surveillance;
  • the use of informers;
  • improper use of intelligence;
  • public order;
  • the use of force;
  • the treatment of victims;
  • the treatment of ethnic minorities;
  • complaints;
  • internal discipline;
  • accountability to the law;
  • governance and democratic accountability;
  • gender and diversity in the composition of the police organisation;
  • the rights of police officers with respect to trade union membership, political activity and disciplinary procedures; and
  • education and training.

The human rights standards on each of these aspects are extracted in the first instance from international sources such as:

  • the European Convention on Human Rights;
  • the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
  • the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials;
  • the Council of Europe’s Code of Police Ethics;
  • the reports of the Council of Europe’s Committee on the Prevention of Torture
  • the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and examples of best practice from other jurisdictions.

This is supplemented by an account of relevant Irish human rights standards as extracted from the Constitution, the common law and legislation. On each of these key aspects of policing, attention is drawn to how and where Irish law falls short of international best practice and what is needed to remedy the deficiencies. The Part closes with a detailed and comprehensive account of how and the extent to which human rights based policing policies were formulated, disseminated and monitored within the Garda up to the current reforms triggered by the Garda Siochana Act 2005, the reports of the Morris and Barr Tribunals of Inquiry and the Ionann Human Rights Audit.

Part II offers a structured and comprehensive account of the human rights concerns that have affected policing in Ireland over the past decade or so. It brings together in one place an overview of the human rights failings that have been revealed by sources such as:

  • the Morris Tribunal of Inquiry into events in Donegal;
  • the Barr Tribunal into the fatal shooting of John Carthy at Abbeylara;
  • the Garda Siochana Complaints Board and Ombudsman Commission;
  • the European Committee on the Prevention of Torture;
  • judgments from Irish courts;
  • the Ionann Human Rights Audit on the Garda; and
  • investigative journalism.

A concerted attempt is made to present the findings from these sources under the same headings which are used to present the human rights standards on key aspects of policing in part one.

Part III offers a critique of the Garda policies and processes that have been and are being taken to address the human rights deficiencies outlined in Part II. This includes an expert analysis of the internal formulation and dissemination of human rights policies and the monitoring of compliance with those policies and human rights standards within the force. Once again a concerted attempt is made to present the analysis under the same headings that are used in the first and second parts.

In Part IV the book concludes with a body of broad recommendations on the further actions that are needed to ingrain human rights standards at the heart of all aspects of policing in Ireland.

About the Author

Professor Dermot Walsh, Law School, University of Limerick is the author of Juvenile Justice and Criminal Procedure.

Contents Include

Part 1: Human Rights Standards for Policing

Fingerprinting, Photographing and Palm-Printing
The Right to Silence
Access to Legal Advice
Police Powers to Stop, Question and Search
Intimate Body Searches and Bodily Samples
Entry, Search and Seizure, Surveillance and Informers
Improper use of Garda Information and Intelligence
Public Order
Use of Force
A Representative Garda Siochana
The Human Rights of Gardai
Garda Accountability
Policy Formulation, Implementation and Monitoring
Education and Training

Part 2: Human Rights Issues in Garda Methods and Practices
Photographing, Fingerprinting and Bodily Samples
Entry, Search and Seizure
Informers, Surveillance and Interception of Telecommunications
Stop, Question and Search
Public Order
The Use of Lethal Force
Perverting the Course of Justice
Use of Information and Media
Garda Rights
Discipline and Accountability
Policy Formulation, Implementation and Monitoring
Education and Training

Part 3: Current Reforms
Reform Processes
Human Rights Policy Formulation, Implementation and Monitoring
Education, Training and Promotion
Exercise of Garda Powers and Related Matters
Serving the Communities
Garda rights

Part 4: Conclusion

This book should be of interest to a broad readership, including:

  • practising lawyers;
  • Garda management and members of the An Garda Síochána
  • students of law, criminal justice and public policy;
  • All persons and groups interested in policing matters:
    • government departments;
    • politicians
    • local police community consultation committees
    • the human rights community
    • journalists; and
    • the general public

Additional information


Hardback, Paperback


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