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Less than half of garda stations have access to email

ONLY half of the country's garda stations have access to email or internet facilities, according to figures from the Department of Justice.

Of the 703 garda stations throughout the country, email facilities are only available at 347 "networked locations" within An Garda Siochana.

However, all gardai have access to internal email through the Garda Pulse system.

The figures come in the aftermath of the Garda Inspectorate report, which found a new computer system was urgently required in order to match policing resources to the needs of local communities.

Aspects of the current computer system were described as "antiquated" by the Garda Inspectorate.

Last night, Fine Gael justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan said that while Justice Minister Dermot Ahern was "talking tough" with new legislation to tackle crime, his talk was not being matched with resources. "Every modern method of communication should be available to the gardai. You can't expect them to fight crime with 1960s methods," Mr Flanagan said.

Labour Party communications spokesman Tommy Broughan, who has been asking questions about expanding email facilities to garda stations for 10 years, said: "It's amazing that for the last decade, when the public service and rest of us went online, the Garda Siochana was limping way behind us." Garda sources said there may have been a reluctance in the past to introduce email facilities in case the public then started to use it as a means of alerting them to issues that needed urgent attention.


Unlike telephone calls, which come to the attention of gardai immediately, emails of significance could join a queue of correspondence, they said.

However, other sources said there was little reluctance on the part of gardai to have external email expanded to them as part of moves to modernise the force. External email is provided to all gardai from the rank of inspector upwards, Mr Ahern said in response to a Dail written question.

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External email has also been made available to members of other ranks and civilian staff based on operational needs identified by garda management.

Meanwhile, out of 98 hoax calls made last year, only 22 callers have so far been identified and investigated by the gardai. Some 88 of the false calls entailed the call-out of the army's Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.

Mr Ahern said he was focused on identifying the "culprits" in these incidents and -- where there was enough evidence -- in bringing them before the courts.

However, Mr Flanagan called for stiffer penalties which he said would deter people from making hoax calls in the first instance.

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