Friday 23 March 2018

Some gardaí were using PULSE as 'a social website for gossip', says former Justice Minister Alan Shatter

TD Alan Shatter
TD Alan Shatter

David Kearns

TD Alan Shatter has claimed that while Justice Minister some Gardaí were using the PULSE computer system more "as a social website" than as a tool to record criminal acts.

Allegations about the inappropriate access have dogged the system since its introduction in the late 1990s, and Deputy Shatter said he had raised concerns about its misuse with the Garda Commissioner while heading up the Department of Justice in 2013.

“[This inappropriate access] has been highlighted in a number of areas, particularly, for example, in a very public way in relation to Deputy Clare Daly,” he said while speaking to Pat Kenny on Newstalk earlier today.

Read More: Garda and wife probed by GSOC after it checked reporter's phone

Referencing allegations that a number of Gardaí used the PULSE system to access information about the Dublin North’s 2013 arrest for suspected drink-driving, Mr Shatter said he had found the incident very worrying.

“What isn't generally publicly known is that I raised that issue with the Garda authorities and I expressed concern as to how that came about.

"I was subsequently advised… that in excess of 150 members of the force had accessed the PULSE system… some of them seem to think it was some sort of social website that they could look up for gossip purposes.”

Read More: Pulse system reform allows logging of racism and hate crimes

Mr Shatter continued, saying it was his understanding that one of the investigations that GSOC is currently engaged in arose out of a complaint made by Deputy Daly as to how details of her arrested leaked into the public domain.

Also troubling at the time, he said, where the circumstances of how information about the death well-known model Katy French “found their way into the public domain".

"My concern at the time was that in relation to reports on both those issues, they were more about prurient interest than public interest.”

The former Justice Minister told The Pat Kenny Show it was his belief that the inappropriate access of Pulse was undermining public trust in the Gardaí, and could jeopardised criminal trials.

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“It is an issue about people’s confidence in the Garda Siochana, whether you are engaged with the Gardaí, whether you try and assist them in their inquiries, you are a witness to an event, whether you have a personal issue you need to discuss with them.

“The public needs the assurance of knowing, that if you happen to be someone that is well known, that that won’t leak its way into the newspapers.”

A recent review by the Garda Inspectorate into Pulse in 2014 uncovered a number of systemic failures in recording criminal acts, while a similar review by the Central Statistics Office found that 18 pc of crimes reported in 2011 had not been recorded on the system.

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