40. Deputy Jim O’Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent of training and continuous professional development provided for members of An Garda Síochána when amending or new legislation is passed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 51990/17 asked on 05 Dec 2017)

Deputy Jim O’Callaghan: Being a member of An Garda Síochána is an extremely demanding and professional job and it is not comparable to the job performed by members, say, 30 or 40 years ago. Part of the reason for this is the vast array of legislation that passes through the Houses. It is even difficult for lawyers to keep up with the amount of law being generated, not just in the Houses but also in the European Union. Obviously, gardaí need to have knowledge of the law. What is being done to provide training for or for the continuous professional development of members of An Garda Síochána?

Deputy Charles Flanagan: As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who has statutory responsibility for arranging for the training of personnel and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. I am informed by the Commissioner that each Garda division has a continuous professional development school which provides for professional development on a variety of topics and issues, ranging from procedural to legislative changes and the implementation of new initiatives.  The Garda College also designs and delivers a range of professional development programmes for members of An Garda Síochána, including leadership, management, applied skills and crime training.

The Commissioner’s modernisation and renewal programme for the period 2016 to 2021 which is under way recognises that it is critical that all personnel are kept up to date on relevant policies and changes in the law and that continuous professional development must be a constant within An Garda Síochána. I have been informed by the Commissioner that, as part of this programme, investment in learning and development in An Garda Síochána will be enhanced in order that all personnel will receive the training, mentoring and leadership development they require to continue to develop their skills in order that they can perform more effectively in their roles and will be in a position to progress and advance their careers.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Crowe Horwath report on mandatory alcohol testing checkpoints and fixed charge notices emphasised the need for mechanisms and training for informing and updating Garda personnel on developments in legislation and changes to the systems and procedures for processing the notices and all other offences.  In addition, the Policing Authority, in its third progress report on the implementation of the Garda Inspectorate’s report, highlighted the lack of an organisational training strategy in An Garda Síochána. In that regard, I understand the preparation of a learning and development policy for all Garda personnel is at an advanced stage and expected to be published early next year. I fully expect the development of this policy to facilitate an examination of whether further enhancements are required to the mechanisms in place for informing and updating Garda personnel on developments in legislation, practice, procedures and system changes.

Deputy Jim O’Callaghan: I am conscious of the fact that it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the training of personnel. I am also aware that the Policing Authority has a crucial role to play in changing the manner in which training in the Garda is amended. Notwithstanding that, it is important that the Minister and the Department play a part in emphasising the need to ensure that there is greater training within the force to deal with the vast array of legislation that is coming down the tracks.

As the Minister mentioned, the Crowe Horwath report found that a fundamental cause of the errors in the mandatory intoxicant testing was the lack of appropriate, timely and effective training for gardaí in the processing of road traffic offences. In fairness to members of the Garda, that is not surprising. Road traffic law changes with considerable frequency and road traffic Bills pass through the House regularly, and gardaí are responsible for ensuring that a new law, as introduced, is applied on the ground. For that reason, it is important that the Government recognises, and the Department emphasises, the requirement for there to be greater ongoing training on that matter. I do not know whether the Minister believes there is a requirement for him to emphasise the need for that training or for legislation to emphasise it.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Yes. While I do not have a direct role in the provision of training, I am conscious of my role as Minister in exhorting and advising that the various training options are adequately resourced and duly taken up by gardaí. In this regard, all gardaí recruited since the reopening of the Garda College in Templemore in September 2014 have undertaken a two-year training programme, leading to a BA in applied policing accredited by UL. Participants are required to sit and pass mandatory academic examinations and professional assessments if they are to progress to the conclusion of their programme. I am advised by the acting Commissioner that the provision of material to Garda trainees within this programme is constantly monitored and reviewed by staff in the Garda.

As to gardaí who work in stations, it is appropriate and essential that there be opportunities for training and retraining, particularly in the context of the changing environment of legislation processed in the House as well as our investment in ICT systems and, recently, the fleet. In light of this and the Crowe Horwath report, every effort must be made to ensure proper and adequate training in the Garda.

Deputy Jim O’Callaghan: One of the advantages of formalising training to a greater extent than it is now is that it would encourage gardaí to develop expertise in individual areas. We might find that gardaí wish to emphasise and grow their expertise in particular areas.

I noted the Minister’s comments on the House not being responsible for training gardaí, but we could make their lives simpler. For instance, the Road Traffic Acts are all over the place. There are so many pieces of legislation. We need to try to consolidate them. It would make the life of a garda much easier if we had a simplified, consolidated Road Traffic Act that concisely and precisely set out the law on road traffic offences as opposed to having to look up whether, for example, the 2003 Act was amended by a 2013 Act. We have a responsibility, not just to ensure that there is greater training, but to ensure that the legislation, which is primarily used by the Garda, is more easily digestible by its members.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: I will say something about this from facts within my own knowledge. One of the earliest publications that I acquired in my District Court practice some years ago was an up-to-date copy of the Garda Síochána guide, which was specifically designed to assist gardaí in prosecutions. It was so good that it was also a vital publication for those engaging in defence matters, as I am sure Deputy O’Callaghan will be aware.

I wish to state the importance of the Garda College in delivering a training programme for new recruits and providing continuing professional development, CPD. There is always a benefit in taking stock to see whether things can be done in a better or different way. In this regard, the Commission on the Future of Policing is examining all aspects of policing in the State, including training. I understand that commission members recently met people in UL. They also had an opportunity to visit the Garda College as part of their work. The commission is due to report in September 2018. If it is in a position to make recommendations on training or CPD prior to that date, I will be more than happy to receive those and have them considered by the House.