Young children listed as suspects on garda system
Whistleblower says hundreds recorded on Pulse database without guardians' knowledge
Published 13/01/2013 | 05:00
CHILDREN as young as six years old are listed as "suspected offenders" on the garda Pulse system, according to a letter sent to the Ombudsman for Children by the garda whistleblower behind the penalty point terminations controversy.
The shockingly allegation, if true, would be an apparent breach of the spirit of the Children's Act, which is aimed at keeping children out of the criminal justice system as long as possible.
According to the act, the age of criminal responsibility is over 10 years old for serious offences such as murder or rape or over 12 years old for less serious crimes.
The letter sent to the Ombudsman for Children also alleged that children less than 14 years old were named as suspects for crimes they did not commit and were listed on garda records without their parents' or guardians' knowledge.
The claim that "hundreds of innocent children" are listed in garda files as criminal suspects was also made in writing to the Justice Minister Alan Shatter and to the Data Protection Commissioner.
The fresh allegations are sure to raise concerns among the public, who are entitled under the Data Protection Act to request a copy of all personal data held on them by gardai.
In an email sent to Justice Minister Alan Shatter in December last year, the whistleblower alleged that innocent children are listed as suspected offenders in garda records.
The garda also claimed he had raised a number of other concerns with garda management and the Justice Department last year, including:
* Penalty point terminations.
* No insurance and dangerous driving cases never followed up.
* Serious incidents not investigated properly or not investigated at all.
* Cases wiped from Pulse to hide malpractice.
The garda told the minister's office that he was told last February that no evidence was found of wrongdoing when his allegations were investigated by the Garda Commissioner's office.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said a member of the force had written to his office "recalling allegations he previously made to the confidential recipient and repeating current allegations of improper cancellation of fixed charge notices".
The department also said a solicitor had written to the minister on behalf of a member of the force making a range of allegations and the department is still in correspondence with him.
However, a garda spokesman said they were "unaware of any specific complaint on such issues".
When asked if children less than 12 years old were recorded in the Pulse system, the spokesman said: "The organisation is satisfied it is compliant with Data Protection and Human Rights legislation."
It is believed that some of the allegations are contained in a 350-page dossier compiled by a serving member of the force that alleges a litany of cases of garda malpractice.
The letter sent to the Children's Ombudsman in August 2011 claims that innocent children are inputted into the system to bolster detection rates.
The whistleblower told the Ombudsman's office that he believed that recording of this information was "wrong and abuse of the duty of care".
The Ombudsman for Children responded by saying they did not have the power to investigate complaints against gardai and suggested the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) would be better placed to look into the matter.
A similar letter was sent to the Data Protection Commissioner in December 2011, which also claimed that members of the public, including children, had been listed as criminal suspects in garda files.
In the correspondence with the Data Protection Commissioner, the whistleblower said he reported his allegations to An Garda Siochana through the then deputy commissioner but felt he had not received an adequate response.
The letter, which related to one garda division in the country, also claimed that information concerning victims of crime had been "violated" and "falsified" to cover up dereliction of duty.
It also claimed that records have been used to bolster crime statistics.
A statement from the Data Protection Commissioner said it had completed the "on-site element" of an audit of the garda Pulse system which encompassed some of the claims made by the whistleblower.
It read: "In advance of the audit we collated information from a number of sources including within the gardai and met with one individual to gather more information in relation to the accuracy of information on Pulse.
"We have received full co-operation from the gardai throughout the audit and it is committed to responding fully to any issues highlighted by the audit including regarding access to and use of the garda Pulse system."