Tuesday 17 October 2017

Serious criminal trial collapses after crimes that alleged victim did not commit were found in his Garda Pulse file

Stock picture
Stock picture

David Raleigh and Shane Phelan

A serious criminal trial has collapsed due to inaccurate information being recorded on the Garda Pulse computer system - leaving a man with a list of convictions for crimes he had not committed.

This is believed to have occurred after the man's Pulse ID was apparently "merged" with another person of the same name.

Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll Picture: Damien Eagers
Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll Picture: Damien Eagers

The discovery led to the discharge of the jury and a retrial is now scheduled.

A barrister for the State told the court it could "not vouch for the accuracy" of information recorded about the man on Pulse.

He said the man's information appeared to have been merged with that of another individual.

Senior Garda sources said the mistake was most likely down to "human error" and not any systemic problem in the Pulse system.

But the incident is a further embarrassing blow to the credibility of the force and its much criticised computer system, which is widely considered to be outdated.

The matter emerged after the alleged victim in the case disputed information recorded on Pulse relating to alleged previous convictions.

He took issue with information which had been released to the defence team. This prompted prosecutors to examine the information.

The matter is now being referred for examination to the force's data quality review team.

It comes just days after Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll said €200m was being invested to make Garda IT infrastructure fit for purpose.

"We don't hide the fact that Pulse is an outdated system," he said.

The investment will lead to the introduction of a new investigation management system.

In court yesterday, the accused's barrister said that criminals or suspected criminals were not the only people whose details appeared on Pulse.

He said law-abiding citizens could be open to similar errors.

"The ordinary citizens of this country should be terrified in their beds at this development," he said.

A garda called to give evidence in the absence of the jury about the Pulse records said they appeared to relate to a different person entirely and that she could not vouch for them.

The garda agreed during cross-examination that the personal details of "civic-minded" members of the public also appear on Pulse. This included valid gun licence holders or eye-witnesses in road traffic collisions.

The garda also agreed with the accused's barrister that "there now appears to be a problem with the accuracy of the Pulse system".

She also agreed when it was put to her that "ordinary citizens walking the streets don't know if there's an accurate record on them on Pulse".

The garda said: "There can be problems with Pulse."

She said lengthy enquiries would have to be made over a number of weeks or months to "untangle the records". This will include contacting court personnel, sourcing court orders, charge sheets, and contacting members of the force.

A spokeswoman for the Policing Authority said it had yet to be informed of the details of the case. She said the authority was aware of data quality issues within the Pulse system, with the issue discussed at recent meetings and set to be discussed at further meetings with Garda management.

A spokesman for Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said it would not be appropriate for her department to comment on the outcome of a particular case.

Irish Independent

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