Wednesday 12 December 2018

Revealed: Gardaí mistakenly kept intelligence on sightings of the dead

Chiefs told to fix 200 errors in homicide data

Stock picture
Stock picture
Murder victims were not recorded as deceased. Stock photo
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Gardaí mistakenly recorded intelligence on dead people on the force's Pulse system, according to an internal review of crime data.

The intelligence logged on the Garda computer system included purported sightings or movements of homicide victims who were not actually recorded as 'deceased' on the system.

The startling findings were uncovered during an internal review of crime data from 2003 to 2016 ordered by the Garda Commissioner after scathing criticism of the force's homicide statistics.

The review is believed to have identified more than 200 people who died as a result of homicide over the 13-year period, but who were not officially recorded as 'deceased' on Pulse. In a small number of these cases, the review found that detectives had input intelligence on victims who were actually dead.

The review is also believed to have identified more than 100 people who were listed on the system under road traffic fatalities but who were not officially recorded as deceased on Pulse. It is not clear what, if any, impact these oversights may have on road safety statistics. One explanation for the oversights is that deaths may have occurred some time after the incidents were recorded and the system was not updated.

Informed sources believe the highly embarrassing review raises questions over the integrity and accuracy of Garda intelligence and suggest that the scale of the misrecorded data on the Pulse system is far greater than previously thought.

Garda management have been briefed on the findings and action has been taken to rectify errors with the homicide data. Divisional chiefs were told about the misrecording of homicide deaths on Pulse last week and were asked to correct any errors in their areas, according to sources.

The integrity of the Garda's crime statistics has come under intense scrutiny, with the Policing Authority and the Central Statistics Office (CSO) repeatedly challenging the quality of its data. The Garda breath test scandal was followed by concerns about domestic homicide figures last year.

A review of over 500 domestic deaths between 2013 and 2015 flagged 41 for further investigation. Eventually 12 were upgraded to homicide. They had originally been recorded as more minor crimes, including non-fatal assaults.

Garda management insisted that even though they were misclassified, the homicides were investigated properly.

However, two civilian analysts with the force made protected disclosures to an Oireachtas committee that some were never investigated as homicides. The term homicide covers unlawful killing including murder, manslaughter, death by dangerous driving and infanticide.

The internal Garda review is examining the recording of homicide data from 2003 to 2016 and is also reviewing the investigations into homicides that were misclassified, to ensure they were dealt with appropriately.

A statement from the Garda press office this weekend said: "Our review of homicides and homicide classification from 2003 to 2016 is ongoing.

"If we or other stakeholders identify any issues during this review we will keep all relevant parties including the Policing Authority informed.

"The team conducting this review includes experienced investigators and civilian members of the Garda analysis service."

The CSO suspended its publication of crime statistics last year, because of concerns about errors in the raw crime data supplied to it by An Garda. It resumed publishing the statistics last month, but "with reservations" about the quality of data that extended beyond homicides.

Sunday Independent

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