The Policing Authority has described its interaction with An Garda Siochana over the cancelled 999 calls controversy as “profoundly dissatisfying”.
At a meeting of the watchdog on Thursday, chairman Bob Collins said attempts to obtain information from Gardai were a source of “significant concern” and “fairly intense frustration”.
At the meeting, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris apologised to victims of domestic abuse who had their 999 calls cancelled, saying they had not received the level of support required.
Mr Collins said: “At the March meeting of the authority, we had the first intimation that there may be an issue of substance and seriousness in this.
“That was an inference we drew from an observation that was made at that meeting.
“We now know that the seriousness and the substance about which we began to have an apprehension in March, had been widely understood within the organisation from October.
“It has been a source of significant concern, and fairly intense frustration that it has been very difficult, that no approach was made to us in that regard, no unveiling of that information was done.
“It has been difficult until very recently to get substantive and comprehensive information in relation to what was happening.”
Mr Collins referred to a May meeting with Gardai on the issue as “profoundly dissatisfying” because the scale of significant issues around domestic violence calls was “appreciated at that time”, but that this “had not been identified at any stage as being a source of concern”.
Around 2,000 calls related to domestic abuse were cancelled for “invalid” reasons between 2019 and 2020, an internal Garda inquiry has found.
But the scope of that inquiry has focused solely on calls related to domestic violence, with over 22,000 “priority one” calls to 999 services also cancelled.
Gardai have said further detail on those calls will be made available in the coming months.
Mr Harris told the meeting he would welcome an independent, external examination of what took place.
He said: “I think that would be entirely valid and appropriate.
“I think we would welcome that because we want to be sure that we haven’t missed anything for a start.
“But secondly then just to give further reassurance as to the depth and the quality of the work that’s been undertaken here.
“Certainly, if there was an independent analysis of the quality of that work, then that would be welcome.”
Mr Harris said there are significant concerns over the impact the scandal may have on faith in the 999 emergency response system.
“There’s a lot of stake here because not only is it the quality of the treble nine system, but also then our response to domestic abuse” he said.
“So outside analysis of this would be welcomed, and because we are very mindful that there’s a lot of learning for us in this, in terms of behaviours and responses on behalf of members of An Garda Siochana.”
I always have to be on the alert for those who haven't followed through on these procedures deliberately to avoid further work down the line.Garda Commissioner Drew Harris
Mr Harris did not contradict previous media reports that Gardai coordinated their efforts through WhatsApp messages to cancel calls, in turn preventing files transferring to the Pulse database, in a bid to avoid paperwork.
He said: “That is something that we are watching for, because the Authority will be very well aware that we put a big emphasis on callbacks.
“Callbacks happen when the domestic abuse incident moves onto Pulse. So the way to avoid callbacks is for the incident not to move onto Pulse.
“I always have to be on the alert for those who haven’t followed through on these procedures deliberately to avoid further work down the line.
“That’s a facet of this, it would be wrong to say that our mind is closed to that possibility. We’re very much open to that possibility.
“I don’t think it’s quite as has been reported in the media, but it’s an important element as we look through some of the reasons these calls were recorded as cancelled.”