Sunday 19 January 2020

Issues behind the misclassification of 12 killings identified by gardaí including evidence not submitted

Meeting: Josephine Feehily, chairperson of the Policing Authority, and Commissioner Drew Harris at Dublin Castle. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Meeting: Josephine Feehily, chairperson of the Policing Authority, and Commissioner Drew Harris at Dublin Castle. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Mícheál Ó Scannáil

Mícheál Ó Scannáil

A review into garda investigation and classification of homicide has identified 25 issues which led to flaws in a number of investigations studied, and the misclassification of 12 killings.

The review, which was carried out by a multi-disciplinary team of garda staff, found errors in data quality and investigative issues including evidence not being seized where possible, witness statements not taken from all involved, and cases not being properly filed to PULSE, the garda computer filing system.

The review also outlined how in some of these investigations, fingerprint analysis reports were not prepared accurately, 999 audio was not transcribed correctly and there were inaccuracies in the recording of dates incidents occurred and were reported.

While the review focused on 41 cases between 2013 and 2015, the Policing Authority said "the review of more recent deaths in the years 2016 up to 2019 have also identified data quality issues and misclassification issues across these years and these need to be rectified."

The issue around classification of homicide figures emerged in June 2017, when gardaí revealed that 89 homicides over a 14-year period were not counted due to an issues with how they were recorded on the PULSE database.

After the review was set up, it was revealed that of the 41 cases studied, three murders and eight cases of manslaughter were incorrectly classified on the garda computer system as lesser crimes or sudden deaths, an unpublished report has found.

Read More: 12 killings wrongly classified by gardai - unpublished report

The Policing Authority published its review of 2019, which included the Garda Homicide Investigation Review Team (HIRT) review. Outgoing chairperson Josephine Feehily said that she found it worrying that when first producing the report, gardaí focused on statistics rather than mistakes made and recommendations for improvement.

"There is something inherently worrying when you can find investigative issues in 28 cases," she said.

"That's a high hit rate. This was presented initially by the gardaí to us and to the public and an issue to do with boring statistics - classification.

"We said 'hold on a minute, that's OK, what about the investigations' because if you give a homicide a wrong classification it will drive the investigation not quite where it needs to go.

"It doesn't give us any comfort to know that there were investigative issues. They didn't see the investigative issues as the problem, they saw numbers as the problem."

Ms Feehily said however that she was impressed by the transparency and ownership in the final report. The outgoing Chairperson, who will be succeeded by Bob Collins, praised the training of 200 Garda members to conducting Peer Reviews on investigations.

Ms Feehily said the peer reviews, which will serve to "support gardaí and not criticise them", will improve the quality of investigations.

Gardaí confirmed that they are "committed to implementing the recommendations of the Garda Homicide Investigation Review Team."

Commissioner Drew Harris said: "The Policing Authority’s positive comments on the quality of the HIRT report and its candour are to be welcomed. This review is a further demonstration of the ability of the Garda organisation to professionally examine internal issues in conjunction with appropriate oversight.

"Our focus now is to implement the HIRT’s recommendations to ensure public confidence in the quality and standard of Garda investigations.”

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News