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Friday 21 July 2017

Computer errors blamed for killings being recorded as assaults - say Garda chiefs

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan at the Policing Authority meeting in Dublin Castle yesterday. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan at the Policing Authority meeting in Dublin Castle yesterday. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Laura Lynott

Computer errors have been blamed for wrongly recording killings as assaults, according to Garda chiefs.

Garda management has said that "two or three" killings from 2013 to 2015 were wrongly recorded as assaults.

The misclassifications were confirmed at a Policing Authority hearing where officers insisted the error, on the internal Pulse computer system, had no bearing on criminal inquiries or prosecutions.

Deputy Commissioner John Twomey told the watchdog: "There was a full and proper investigation done in each and every one of these cases.

"For families or anyone else affected by these, it's critically important that the message is clear."

The mistakes were discovered during a review of 41 incidents. However, the head of the Garda Analysis Service revealed he never saw the case files.

That original enquiry was led by Gurchand Singh, head of the analysis service - who "married" pulse system information with State Pathologist Marie Cassidy's reports on each case.

Mr Singh told the Policing Authority at Dublin Castle yesterday: "Issues began to arise in terms of classifications... Incidents were marked up for assaults causing harm and in the non-fatal offence group but it was attached to fatality."

The task to look into errors of reporting homicides was then passed on to a team run by Assistant Commissioner Eugene Corcoran.

Authority chair Josephine Feehily asked Mr Singh: "Did the review address your concerns? You discuss your analysis ...have you seen the case files?" Mr Singh responded: "I haven't seen the files."

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan interjected and told the chair: "A group was set up (to look into the matter). Assistant Commissioner Corcoran can fill you in on the next stage."

Assistant Commissioner Corcoran said there had been a "joint approach in terms of examination" of the cases identified and any concerns had been addressed. "Each of the 41 cases were fully explained," he said.

Ms Feehily was concerned that the authority had not received information about the inquiries in time to assess.

"We received much of the material far too late to give it proper consideration; in one case 8.30 last night," Ms Feehily told the Garda Commissioner.

She also asked: "Do you have a thing called a report that has a start and an end that we could have a copy of?"

Appeal

Ms O'Sullivan said the delivery of the homicide report on Wednesday night was late because the issue was not on the agenda and the report had been provided to be of assistance to the authority.

"There can be no doubt that this matter was going to be raised with you today," the chair told Ms O'Sullivan.

Elsewhere, in the lengthy hearing, the authority was told that half of the motorists who have been offered an appeal for wrongful speeding convictions have said they want to take advice first.

Attempts have so far been made by the Garda to send letters to about 10,000 of the 14,700 drivers who were incorrectly prosecuted in court.

Irish Independent

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