12 homi­cides of 41 recorded wrongly on Garda sys­tem

Irish Daily Mail - - News - By Emma Jane Hade Po­lit­i­cal Re­porter

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.

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