The three-year backlog to examine digital devices, which includes child abuse imagery, is a “critical weakness” for gardai, a Policing Authority report has said.
The Policing Authority said warned of their “enduring concern” is the continuing backlog to electronic devices following the seizure of items.
It said this has an impact on the timelines of investigations, the potential identification of victims, and the journey of victims through the criminal justice system.
In its latest report, it said the three-year backlog is a “critical weakness” for the Garda Siochana, warning it has the potential to have “considerable impact” on investigations and individual victims and suspects.
“The increasing number of devices seized is a challenge to the Garda Siochana as it is to police services worldwide,” it added.
“Despite reported increases in productivity in terms of the triaging and analysing of devices, the backlog remains.
“The demands of modern policing are such that it is unlikely that the challenges around cyber and cyber enabled crime, which includes child sexual exploitation, are likely to abate.”
Gardai set targets in 2019 to slash waiting times to under 12 months, however it has struggled to cut times.
The Authority said that significant and immediate action is needed to meet the policing demands.
“Resourcing in this instance, as is the case across the organisation, may most suitably be the allocation of specialist Garda staff,” the report added.
The report also stated that garda HQ targets to tackle organised and serious crime are split between on-target and at-risk.
It said that there continues to be “considerable success” achieved in responding to and disrupting organised crime groups (OCGs).
This is a considerable achievement for the Garda Siochana given the scale of the organised crime issues faced by the organisation in the recent pastPolicing Authority
“In particular, there is sustained success in tackling OCGs engaged in the drugs trade with continued, positive medium-term trends in relation to the seizures of drugs, currency and firearms, and the reduction of threat-to-life incidents,” it added.
It said there were no threats to life in the first half of 2022, something it described as an “extraordinary marker of success” following recent years of garda community impact.
“This is a considerable achievement for the Garda Síochána given the scale of the organised crime issues faced by the organisation in the recent past,” the report stated.
“In particular the collaboration with international partners to respond to the activities of the Kinahan OCG, as well as disrupting the activities of other OCGs in collaboration with UK, EU and other partners, represents landmark success.
“The continuing challenge for the Garda Siochana as a wider organisation is to increasingly align these successes with felt impacts at a community level and to enhance the protection of the community, in particular young people, from criminality, exploitation and intimidation.
“Beyond drug and drug-related crime, the response to organised and serious crime remains challenging for the Garda Siochana, most notably in respect of economic and cyber-crime which continue to see significant rises in prevalence.
“These matters predominantly relate to resourcing.”
It warned that the scale of growth in economic crime has placed a demand on the policing force that cannot be met by the current allocated resources.
“These are not new issues. Both the inadequacy of resources and the crime trends are long-term issues that pre-date the recent growth in economic and cyber-crime,” the authority added.
“A medium-term resourcing plan for economic crime, as required under the implementation plan arising from the Hamilton Review on economic crime and corruption, remains outstanding and is now a year overdue.”