Tuesday 18 December 2018

Garda watchdog denies it ignored whistleblowers on homicide stats

Questioned: Josephine Feehily. Photo: Damien Eagers
Questioned: Josephine Feehily. Photo: Damien Eagers
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The Policing Authority has defended how it responded to concerns raised by two civilian whistleblowers about the force's homicide statistics.

Its chair, Josephine Feehily, denied Garda Síochána Analysis Service personnel Lois West and Laura Galligan were ignored when contact was made with the oversight body last year.

Ms Feehily also denied there was anything improper about someone in the authority informing Garda management that the analysts had been in contact. She was questioned at the Oireachtas Justice Committee as TDs and senators expressed concern about the treatment of the whistleblowers.

Earlier this month, the analysts told the committee they were "belittled" and "shouted down" by Garda management when they tried to raise concerns about data quality in the recording of dozens of deaths.

They were also concerned that they were put under pressure to sign off on an "inherently weak" review of homicide statistics last April.

Ms West made contact with the Policing Authority on several occasions by phone and letter between April and July last year, but no meeting ensued.

She learned from a senior officer last August that Garda management had been informed about their approaches during a phone conversation with someone in the authority.

Ms West said that not only had they not been heard but the authority had "kind of told tales" on them

Speaking at the committee yesterday, Ms Feehily said the evidence of the analysts about how they were treated in the workplace "sounded deplorable" and was "very concerning".

But she defended the failure of the authority to meet with them, saying it was already in possession of much of the information they had.

She said it had already received "intelligence" from a number of sources.

"Having reviewed their evidence to you, I can honestly say that there was very little of substance in it about the review which we didn't know or have grounds to believe since late March or early April of last year," she told the committee.

Ms Feehily said each time the analysts made contact they got a response, were thanked and were assured the issue would not be dropped. "They perceive things in a certain way. Our belief is that we responded each time and that we persisted with all of the issues," she said. "Our belief is that we did not ignore their concerns."

Ms Feehily said a letter from the analysts to the authority was kept confidential, but the fact they had been in contact would not have been considered confidential. "Routine contact was not regarded as confidential," she said.

Asked by Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers who in the authority had phoned Garda management about the approaches the analysts had made, Ms Feehily said she had "no idea".

Irish Independent

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