CHAPTER 15 Recommendations
A summary of failures at Abbeylara
Failures by the scene commanders and others which contributed to the disaster at Abbeylara have been examined in depth in this report. They are briefly summarised in Chapter 8, section O, to which the reader is referred.
Learning from the mistakes
The restructuring of the Garda response in siege situations
I recommend that the Minister and the Commissioner, in collaboration with police experts from other comparable jurisdictions, should review the situation which pertained at Abbeylara as found in this Report and the criticism of Garda performance there, including that of expert police witnesses, with a view to devising a revised structure for command and an appropriate scheme for dealing with similar siege situations — particularly where a dangerous gunman is believed to be motivated by mental illness. Such a review should include consideration of and, where perceived to be appropriate, recommendations on the following matters:
i. Where it is decided that a specialist unit of the ERU be engaged to take over tactical command at the scene, which may include also provision of the principal negotiator:
(a) Should the commander of the unit have full responsibility for all tactical and negotiating decisions, having advised the local superintendent of his intentions in that regard, and should he have the minimum rank of inspector?
(b) In such circumstances, should the local district superintendent’s command function be limited to the provision of ancillary services such as food, accommodation and other supplies not provided by the ERU; the appointment of an experienced local officer as intelligence co-ordinator to liaise with the ERU commander; provision of an outer cordon of uniformed gardaı´ and any other additional officers the ERU commander may require, including armed detectives if necessary; the organisation of special services such as that of the Garda Technical Bureau, the Garda Press Office and the provision of police dogs and handlers at the scene; provision of additional trained, experienced negotiators (if not supplied by the ERU) and provision of equipment and non-lethal options which may be necessary if not possessed by the specialist unit?
ii. Should local area superintendents undergo refresher training as scene commanders for one week annually — such training to include the importance of making plans; keeping records; intelligence gathering; liaising with negotiators regarding strategy; ensuring the provision of a sufficient number of experienced negotiators at the scene; the establishment of inner and outer cordons; the maintenance of a strict sterile area between cordons; basic instruction on mental illness and the need for prompt consultation, in depth, with the general practitioner or psychiatrist treating such a person, including the importance of calming the subject and of obtaining, as a matter of urgent priority, medical advice in dealing with the mental and other problems displayed by him or her?
iii. Should ERU officers having the rank of inspector or superintendent have the benefit of similar refresher courses?
iv. Should all garda negotiators have detailed courses of instruction of not less than two weeks’ duration which include particular reference to siege situations generally and also those where the subject is believed to be motivated or affected by mental illness. (Instruction on how to deal with that type of situation should include the desirability of consulting with a psychologist attached to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.) Is it also desirable that negotiators should have the benefit of regular refresher courses?
v. The desirability that the training of garda recruits (and all officers by way of refresher courses) should include basic instruction on mental illness and how a person so afflicted should be dealt with, including the need for urgent consultation with his/her medical advisor and the importance of calming the subject.
vi. What specific training in negotiation strategy and on how to assist the gardaı´, if the subject of a siege is believed to suffer from mental illness, is required for state psychologists?
vii. How many psychologists should be employed by the State in providing the service of expert assistance in siege and other similar situations?
viii. The importance of establishing a formal working arrangement (including periodic training of both sides) between the Garda Sı´ocha´na and state psychologists; no such arrangement having been in existence at the time of Abbeylara or now.
ix. The desirability of devising and adopting a retraining model based on that in Victoria, Australia — Project Beacon. The Tribunal is aware that it has had exceptional success and has been highly acclaimed in other jurisdictions.
x. The desirability of utilising teams of appropriately trained police dogs and handlers for use in siege and other comparable situations if required.
xi. The desirability of equipping ERU units with Taser stun guns.
xii. Further investigation of other non-lethal options.
xiii. The need for providing a sufficient number of appropriately equipped specialist command vehicles for use of the Garda Sı´ocha´na throughout its jurisdiction.
As already stated, I am of opinion that the review of Garda command structures and training, particularly in the context of utilising the ERU in siege and other comparable situations, including those having mental illness as a factor, is a subject which should have urgent attention.