Sunday 18 March 2018

Women left at risk of domestic abuse by sloppy Garda homicide records

Review: Dónall Ó Cualáin
Review: Dónall Ó Cualáin
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Women were left at risk of domestic violence because of sloppy recording of crime statistics by gardaí, two civilian officers will reveal today.

The whistleblowers will detail their work on a long-delayed review of homicide figures, including the pressure they claim to have been put under to sign off on a report that was "completely inaccurate and misleading".

The Irish Independent understands their unpublished work has found:

All fatal hit-and-run traffic incidents last year were unidentifiable on the Garda Pulse system;

Homicides have regularly been recorded as occurring in the wrong year;

Five homicides that were recorded as "non-crime or non-fatal crime" last year;

13 suspicious deaths being recorded under a non-crime incident in 2017;

Records of 'dangerous driving causing death' incidents that never happened.

Most strikingly, the deputy head of the Garda Síochána Analysis Service (GSAS) Lois West will say she and a colleague "had very genuine concerns that a person may be living in a vulnerable situation".

She added: "We made the decision to escalate cases where we felt that a new partner may be at risk."

The concerns arose out of what began as a request for the GSAS to conduct a review of domestic homicide cases between 2007 and 2016.

Ms West and Laura Galligan, a senior crime and policing analyst, began work on the project in September 2016 but now claim they faced serious resistance from Garda management.

By late November 2016, Ms Galligan compiled an 87-page report which identified 43 cases of potential issues between 2013 and 2015 alone.

"There were many areas of concern in misclassification, under-reporting, delay in recording and data quality issues," she will tell the Oireachtas Justice Committee today.

Fourteen were considered by pathologists to be a homicide but were listed by gardaí in the incorrect crime category or as a non-crime.

In some cases the data was so substandard that officers recorded the wrong weapon used in an attack. Ms Galligan also found that a murder-suicide was registered as a "non-crime incident".

She will detail "robust discussions" with colleagues about what she deemed "a very serious issue".

"Indeed, at times I felt we were belittled and treated very poorly," she will say.

She compiled a report on homicides in 2012 which identified further problems which were raised with senior management.

"I raised an incident of serious concern to the notice of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau upon discovering the partner of a deceased person was in a new domestic violent relationship," Ms Galligan will state.

She has since "highlighted a number of these types of cases".

Ms West will add: "I strongly believed we would never regret referring such instances to the Protective Services Bureau, but we might regret not doing so."

Last month, Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin appointed a new "core group" of experienced detectives to review deaths as far back as 2003.

Ms West is "fully committed" to helping this group. But she will tell the Oireachtas committee: "We continue to have serious concerns about what will be done to address misclassification and data quality into 2018. We are not aware of any monitoring of this currently ongoing, as no process has yet been agreed for this."

Irish Independent

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