Tuesday 25 October 2016

No answers on why serious crimes 'reclassified' by gardai

Policing Authority says the manipulation of figures has undermined public confidence in the force

Published 02/10/2016 | 02:30

Quizzed: Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan pictured at a public meeting of the Policing Authority at Dublin Castle. Photo: Laura Hutton/Collins
Quizzed: Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan pictured at a public meeting of the Policing Authority at Dublin Castle. Photo: Laura Hutton/Collins

In 2012 an unidentified Garda sergeant 'reclassified' unsolved crimes including rapes and sexual assaults over the previous 14 years to 'less serious' offences.

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Although the incident is recorded in the 2014 report by the independent watchdog body, the Garda Inspectorate, (part 5, page 21, 'Crime Investigation') no known internal investigation has taken place into this serious act.

An account of the incident is one of a series of such incidents recorded by the Inspectorate which found widespread manipulation of crime figures which last week led to expressions of concern by the Policing Authority at its public meeting with Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan.

This report led the Central Statistic Office to suspend Garda 'crime data' figure for a six-month period to June last year. The CSO also began its own investigations leading to last week's report which found that the practice is continuing.

It is wrong, as some gardai have suggested, to ascribe the wrongful recording to crime to the ageing 'Pulse' crime recording data base. Gardai, including several who have been promoted to senior positions, oversaw the deliberate manipulation of crime data to make the force "look better".

Last week's CSO report, which led to very clear concern among members of the Policing Authority, compounds the knowledge of the Garda's dirty secret of crime stats manipulation. It is difficult to explain in any acceptable way how any garda in any position downgraded details of a rape in order to gloss over the general failure to investigate crime.

But the 2014 Inspectorate Report contains damning detail - including the passage about the sergeant who "cleared the books" over the previous 12 years of serious crimes including rape. It states: "Sexual Assaults and Changes to Classifications During the sampling of Pulse, the Inspectorate noted a number of historical sexual offences that were reclassified in 2012. These crimes dated back over 14 years and included offences such as rape and other sexual assaults. These crimes were all reclassified to less serious offences by the same detective sergeant on the same date. There was no narrative on Pulse to explain why these changes were made. The Inspectorate did not have access to any cases files, but it was hard to understand why historical crimes were being reclassified." The Garda Inspectorate found 10 instances of rape not being entered on any system - a week after being reported.

It was this issue that led to last Thursday's expressions of concern by the authority's chairperson, Josephine Feehily, and fellow members Vicky Conway and Moling Ryan. The authority members repeatedly tried to pry information from Commissioner O'Sullivan and her lieutenants at the public meeting in Dublin Castle about the misreporting of crime by gardai and received no comprehensive replies.

Dr Ryan pressed the gardai about the report from the previous week about how gardai allowed a case against a 15-year-old youth for the rape of two girls aged seven and eight in 2008 to lie in abeyance until it was finally ditched. She could elicit no satisfactory explanation.

Dr Ryan pressed the commissioner and her team about the findings of a US State Department report on the handling of sex trafficking investigations around the world. The report found that despite the repeated claims by anti-prostitution groups about sex trafficking, no cases were prosecuted by gardai in 2015.

Dr Ryan was able to elicit from the Garda management team that Ruhama, the Catholic Church agency which has been central to pushing the anti-prostitution agenda and which has made repeated claims about unattributable sex trafficking statistics, takes part in the lecturing of gardai at Templemore Garda College.

The CSO report on the Garda's continuing manipulation of crime statistics has, as the Policing Authority chairperson Ms Feehily repeatedly stated at last Thursday's public meeting, is undermining public confidence in the 'integrity' of the Garda.

The CSO report illustrates what some gardai have been saying for years, that there is a bizarre change in the sense of priority in Garda management over the past decade. While serious crimes from aggravated burglary to serious assault continue to be downplayed as 'trespass' or 'criminal damage' or 'simple assault' (causing no harm) the Garda is devoting massive efforts to prosecuting 'speeding and other minor road offences'. The GSO noted that during 2015, gardai prosecuted 550,000 drivers. It is estimated that driving offences now take up 60pc of district court work.

Figures produced by the gardai at the hearing about the clear-up rate of gang-related murders may also become contentious. A 'clearance' rate of 48pc was mentioned but over the past decade there have been more than 200 gang murders in Dublin and less than 10pc of these have resulted in prosecutions.

The overriding theme of the Garda Inspectorate report on failures to investigate crime is the lack of detectives. This, garda sources say, is directly attributable to an executive decision taken in 2006 to implement fully a recommendation in the Morris Tribunal report into minor corruption in the Donegal Garda Division. Judge Frederick Morris recommended that detectives no longer be allowed to handle individual informants.

Orders were sent out to detectives to ditch their informants or face prosecution. This was followed by a flight of detectives from the force.

Sources say that in order to cover the depletion, the new system has been introduced whereby the prolonged apprentice-style training of detectives has been replaced with a three-tier 'crime scene investigator' system marked from 'Grade One' to the highest level 'Grade Four'.

According to reliable sources 'grades' one to three involve only courses up to three days in length and the top grade entails only a three-week course in Templemore Garda College. This is regarded with considerable disdain among the remaining detectives.

In its response to the questions and expressions of concerns by the authority in Dublin Castle, the commissioner indicated that the enormous issues raised in the Inspectorate and CSO reports will be dealt with by assistant commissioner Micky O'Sullivan - who was present at the public hearing.

It was not mentioned during the hearing that O'Sullivan (59) is due to retire early next year.

There was also no examination at the meeting about the overtime bill for the first six months of this year. The figures included a figure of €36,444 in overtime made, on top of normal salary, by one sergeant. Sources say this overtime bill was run up mainly in relation to the internal investigation against the former head of the Garda Press Office, Superintendent Dave Taylor, who was arrested by a then 14-member unit headed by Commissioner O'Sullivan's husband, then superintendent and since promoted to chief superintendent, Jim Magowan in April last year.

Despite what was said to be 'unlimited overtime' to investigate an allegation that Superintendent Taylor breached Section 62 of the Garda Siochana Act over the 'unlawful disclosure' of information (to journalists) no charge has been brought.

The arrest and continued suspension of Superintendent Taylor, a highly regarded officer is, sources say, seen as a 'lesson' to any other gardai who might consider speaking about about failures or misdeeds in the force.

Sunday Independent

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