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Gardai face increased risk of violence

MORE than 150 gardai have been hospitalised for treatment for injuries as a result of being assaulted while on duty so far this year, while hundreds of others have received minor injuries.

The number of those seriously assaulted this year is expected to pass last year's 155 cases where gardai were injured badly enough to require medical treatment.

And gardai, particularly in Dublin, are concerned that the closure of stations is leading to an increasingly threatening situation where a lack of cells means that violent prisoners have to be held in corridors or driven to stations where cells are available.

Gardai generally accept there needs to be a rationalisation of station numbers -- Dublin has 42 that have been opening 24 hours a day -- but say the city has no major holding centres where prisoners can be kept.

Gardai say there has been a growing level of violence and threats in recent years and add that they are often afraid to respond robustly to attack for fear they will be reported to the Garda Ombudsman and have their careers put on stop while under investigation.

About 2,000 complaints are made each year to the Ombudsman. There were 2,080 in its first year, 2007, and this rose to 2,258 this year.

Sources say the number of complaints about gardai has fallen this year. But the reason for this, gardai say, is because of cutbacks on duty and reduced patrolling.

Gardai also say there is an increased unwillingness on the part of some gardai to become involved in violent or fractious incidents where they may end up being complained about.

An exceptionally high number of complaints are against young uniformed gardai who are at the forefront of policing.

The increased numbers of gardai being injured and threatened is a force-wide concern, though it is not generally highlighted.

The Garda Press Office issued the statistics in relation to reported injuries in response to a request from the Sunday Independent.

Gardai in Dublin are currently carrying out a major investigation into a conspiracy to murder a detective and the Sunday World journalist Mick McCaffrey.

Last week, Dublin Circuit Court put back a man for sentence after he pleaded guilty to threatening to kill the children of a garda based in Tallaght. The court heard the man told the garda that "your children will be shot before Christmas".

Sunday Independent