Gardaí cleared of wrongdoing, but review outlines extent of alarming failings
Over a dozen gardaí faced disciplinary investigations over cancelling 999 calls at Command and Control centres — but were later cleared of wrongdoing as they claimed they acted on the instructions of their superiors.
Meanwhile, several sources say whistleblowers who raised concerns about the handling of 999 calls now feel “sidelined and disillusioned” following the completion of the Policing Authority’s review.
Other gardaí who were under investigation and later exonerated have also been left feeling “disenfranchised”, according to a Garda Representative Association (GRA) spokesperson.
Published on Thursday, the review into the cancellation of 999 calls found there were several incidents of “substantial shortcomings” in the handling of calls.
Failings in the handling of the emergency calls prevented investigations and the identification of victims of possible sexual assault, according to the final report on the controversy. In one case, the call taker did not ask a person for their contact details and ended the call, even though they said they were witnessing a “serious sexual crime”. The person was not kept on the line, so gardaí were unable to locate the scene of the potential crime or victim.
The report was compiled by Derek Penman, the former chief inspector of constabulary in Scotland, who was commissioned by the Policing Authority. While thousands of calls were cancelled, Mr Penman listened to a sample of just 120 call recordings.
It is understood that over 12 garda officers were placed on leave while disciplinary investigations examined why they cancelled calls at Command and Control centres. But these officers were “cleared” after it emerged they had a valid reason or had been instructed by senior officers to do so, sources claim.
“Rank and file gardai were cancelling calls sometimes, but it was often under instruction. The senior officers who made the instruction have not been disciplined,” said one source.
GRA union rep for central Dublin, Damien McCarthy, represented several gardaí under investigation for cancelling calls. “They had to put in a defence and all were exonerated. One has since resigned and all have been left disenfranchised,” he said.
Garda McCarthy added that there is a “significant lack of resources” at the Dublin Command and Control centre, and as a consequence for the past few months “unexperienced, untrained gardaí” at local Dublin stations were dealing with 999 calls.
“The next scandal is only around the corner. I am flabbergasted that the Policing Authority say they are satisfied with how things are operating now.”
Last weekend, the Sunday Independent revealed that a third garda whistleblower recently emerged, as did new details about the nature of some of the cancelled calls. A source close to one of the whistleblowers said this weekend they would not advise colleagues to take similar action in future “given the experience for those who did in this case”.
However, a source close to Garda headquarters said the controversy had been “investigated thoroughly”.