Monday 17 December 2018

Homicide review prompts new probe into death of babies with alcohol in their system

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Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A REVIEW of homicide figures by gardaí has uncovered two cases in which babies had alcohol in their system, the Irish Independent can reveal.

Concerns have now been raised in Garda HQ about the standard of investigation into the deaths that occurred  between 2013 and 2015.

It is understood the children were classified on the Garda Pulse system as having suffered “sudden deaths”.

However, the circumstances around their deaths are now expected to be fully reviewed.

It comes as the Irish Independent can reveal that a trawl of potential homicide cases dating back to 2003 has been effectively stalled in recent months.

The revelation is likely to have significant political ramifications as the Policing Authority, which has oversight of An Garda Síochána, had anticipated the review to be largely completed last year.

Sources say there is still no clear timeline for when the work will be finalised and Garda bosses have appointed a whole new team to take over the probe.

A well-placed source said the review had the potential to be more damaging than the breath-test controversy.

The cases of the two children emerged from an initial analysis of 41 deaths between 2013 and 2015.

Post-mortems at the time of the children’s deaths showed a level of alcohol in the infants’ bodies but it’s not clear that they were actively investigated as potential homicides.

Such post-mortem results would normally lead to a thorough investigation, including checks on bottles used to feed the babies.

It is not obvious that such actions were taken in these incidents and the relevant files are set to be reviewed by detectives.

Garda bosses committed to carrying out a similar trawl of cases dating back to 2003 – but the Irish Independent understands this work is not as advanced as previously believed. 

As a result, Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin has in recent days appointed a new “core group” of experienced detectives to take over the project, including Assistant Commissioner Orla McPartlin.

Mr Ó Cualáin also briefed Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan on the situation yesterday.

New urgency has been injected into the review after two whistleblowers compiled a dossier of claims which has been passed on to the clerk of the Oireachtas Justice Committee.

And just last week the Policing Authority, which has oversight of An Garda Síochána, described delays in receiving information as “frustrating”.

It has “persistently engaged” with gardaí on the issue since last March, with two key questions – “was there misclassification of data and if so has it been rectified in a comprehensive way, and secondly whether there were any implications for the nature and quality of investigation carried out in the cases identified as having been misclassified”. In a statement, the body said answering these questions was “critical to public confidence in policing”.

As a result of re-examination of files from 2013-2015, specially trained officers have alerted relatives that their loved one may not have died in the fashion they believed up to now.

It is understood that some cases have involved assaults where the victim died at a later date but the Pulse system was not updated even though a homicide investigation may have taken place. Others are believed to be related to road accidents which could have been considered homicide.

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