12 homicides of 41 recorded wrongly on Garda system
A REPORT on how gardaí failed to accurately record the number of killings in the State over a 15-year period will not be ready for another six months, TDs were told yesterday.
The Garda analysis service chief Gurchand Singh told the Oireachtas Justice Committee yesterday that homicide was often recorded as a lesser crime, sudden death or assault on the Pulse computer system.
Garda Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn admitted that 12 out of 41 cases had been reclassified and families of the victims notified and pointed towards further support.
The committee’s inquiry into homicide statistics comes after the CSO put a temporary stop to the publication of crime figures last September, until a review into some misclassifications was completed.
Initially, cases from 2013 to 2015 were reviewed but last year this was extended back to 2003 resulting in the 12 deaths being reclassified after checks with the pathologist’s office.
Mick Wallace TD highlighted to the committee the ‘trouble’ the Garda have had ‘getting breath-test figures right, juvenile crime statistics right… difficulties getting checkpoints right, can’t get homicide figures right’.
He asked Asst Commissioner Finn if he accepted there was a ‘serious failure at management in the gardaí’, and if total satisfaction among the public with the force can be achieved with the ‘existing hierarchy’.
However, the senior garda blamed the IT system, saying: ‘We have an IT system that is 20 years old, that is not fit for purpose, that I think is probably at the root of a lot of the issues that we are discussing here in relation to data and the classification of homicides or breath tests and how we record it. And technology has moved on massively in 20 years.’
He said a new data system is needed but they ‘can’t deliver it overnight’.
He also said that perhaps he is ‘biased’ but that he doesn’t believe changing management would ‘solve those problems over night’.
Mr Singh said it would take five or six months to identify ‘problematic’ incidents.
He also said he had some concerns about a Garda report on this issue, referred to at a Police Authority meeting last April. He told the committee he did not see this report until a few weeks after the meeting and he ‘couldn’t sign off on it’.
IT seems incredible that someone who was attacked, and who died of those injuries weeks or months later, would not be identified in official Garda statistics as a murder or manslaughter victim. Yet that is exactly what happened in many cases, according to testimony before the Oireachtas Justice Committee yesterday.
The situation is such that the head of the Garda Síochána Analysis Service, Dr Gurchand Singh, said he could not sign off on an internal review of homicide cases because some of them contradicted crime-counting rules.
The force’s assistant commissioner, Michael Finn, put the blame on an IT system that is 20 years old and not fit for purpose. That may well be part of the explanation but we are lucky in this country that the murder rate still is low and the counting of cases, if one person were dedicated to it, ought to be relatively straightforward.
What it points to, yet again, is a lackadaisical culture within An Garda Síochána, evident in the accounting anomalies at the training college in Templemore, and most especially in the inflated breath-test figures that were exaggerated to the tune of more than one million.
For too long, the force has been unaccountable, not helped by the chromic lack of oversight from the Department of Justice. This simply is not good enough.
Public confidence in the Garda has been severely dented in recent years, and while that is not the fault of the rank and file, they are the ones left to face the brunt of disquiet and disdain from the public at large.
A review into the under-reported homicide rate is under way, but we are told it might take five or six months before it is concluded. Why? There is no room for any further delays. Speed and reassurance are of the essence to restore faith in An Garda Síochána. It must prove it is capable of providing a proper policing service.