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Sunday 24 September 2017

Gardai classified a number of homicides as assaults causing harm - Policing Authority

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Picture: PA
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Picture: PA

Laura Lynott

GARDA Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan admitted she has a "fundamental fear" as "stones are turned over" within the Gardai after a discussion took place on review of 41 homicide cases.

Ms O'Sullivan was questioned at the Policing Authority this afternoon at Dublin Castle after talks took place on inaccurate Garda traffic and homicide figures collated in recent years.

Gurchand Singh, head of the Garda Analysis Service, told the Authority: "Two or three (case notes) I recollect were incidents marked up as assaults causing harm and in the non fatal offence group but it was attached to a fatality.

"One of the things we didn't have was the case notes.  We had pulse records, the pathologist reports but when analysis was completed...I took it to the executive to say there are some issues here but I don't see the investigation in order to have a fuller view."

The Authority were given reassurance that the matter has since been investigated, with officers being talked to, case notes examined and changes made to the Garda Pulse system, which records crimes and other matters were being adopted to improve the recording of crime.

But Authority Chair Josephine Feehily noted that the group had not been able to question the Gardai in depth about this issue because "we only received correspondence at 8.30pm last night."

The chair stated she was not happy about this and if the Authority had been given more time they could have examined the issue with more depth.

Ms Feehily said to the media after she does have concern and said the Gardai need to "use the data more intelligently."

And she was concerned why it had taken so long for the discrepancies to come to light.

"We have a general concern as to what processes are in place to spot unusual patterns."

Ms Feehily said she was "disappointed" Asst Commissioner John Twomey said he'd not sent a letter on the homicide statistics until 8.30pm last night but she added that "we are a new kid on the block and he could have forgot."

During the meeting, Ms Feehily did ask why Garda Commissioner O'Sullivan had recently expressed great concern about the statistics if it seemed all was now out in the open.

"On the one side it was incompetence or deception," the chair said, referring to the recent statistic scandals.

"What are you afraid of?" The chair asked Ms O'Sullivan. "You said you had that fear?"

Ms O'Sullivan said:  "My fear is more fundamental - when we go through radical organisational reform, we are turning over stones not turned over in decade...you'll find things and bring them to the surface but it doesn't mean we are damaged or broken.

"You can't reform or fix things to be better for the community without identifying those (issues).

"Under some stones we find really good pearls and gems of good practise.  I encourage our top team and level below us to have the courage to identify those things, say here's something and here's what we will do to fix it.

"My articulated fear is when we uncover those things and have courage and leadership to come out with it, the finger is pointed.

"I don't do that in my team, if a guard, someone, says this is something I identified, it's my job that the finger is not pointed - that's the person who had the courage to say this is something that is wrong, and how are going to fix it today."

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