Authority finds Garda inflated detection figures

Credibility-damaged Garda crime statistics arise from disputed use of ‘detected’

The Central Statistics Office has suspended publication of any more crime data. A Garda report on homicide figures will be analysed to determine by how much the Republic’s homicide rate has been understated for the last decade and a half.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The Central Statistics Office has suspended publication of any more crime data. A Garda report on homicide figures will be analysed to determine by how much the Republic’s homicide rate has been understated for the last decade and a half. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Garda has been counting as “detected”, or solved, crimes that never went to court or reached any conclusion in the criminal justice system.

It has further emerged that the detection rates for sexual offences have declined by a fifth this year, or by 19 per cent, compared to last. The Garda has launched an inquiry in a bid to establish the reasons for the trend.

The Policing Authority has expressed doubt over one reason given by the Garda for the deterioration – that sex crime cases took time to get to the courts to reach a conclusion.

News of the falling detection rates and the authority’s concern that the Garda was over-reporting the detection of crimes comes after sustained controversies around the reliability of the data produced by the Garda to measure its own performance.

The inflating of alcohol breath testing by almost 1.5 million tests has rocked the Garda’s credibility, as have revelations that errors have occurred in the homicide rates.

The Central Statistics Office has suspended the publication of any more crime data until the homicide data is clarified. A long-awaited Garda report on the homicide figures has now been presented to the Policing Authority. That report will now be analysed to determine by how much the Republic’s homicide rate has been understated for the last decade and a half.

The Garda Inspectorate previously found an under-recording of offences of about 38 per cent.

The Policing Authority on Thursday raised fresh concern the Garda wascounting crimes as detected which it would not regard as detected.

Crime definition

Authority member Judith Gillespie, a former senior officer in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) told a team of senior Garda officers that the force’s definition of a crime having been detected was out of step with what the general public believed.

She was responding to an exchange during a public session of the Policing Authority on Thursday in which it emerged crimes would be marked by the Garda as detected even if a victim withdrew their statement of complaint or was unable to go to court.

Head of the Garda Síochána Analysis Service Dr Gurchand Singh added if the Garda became aware of a crime and the victim did not want to make a statement, that offence was recorded and classified as detected.

But Ms Gillespie suggested the threshold for classifying a crime as detected should be higher than that being set by the Garda for itself.

“In the public’s mind, a detection means that there has been some sort of judicial outcome, even if it’s an adult caution . . . or whatever it might be in court,” she said. “But in the [Garda] definition, it actually can mean that there hasn’t been such an outcome.”

Ms Gillespie told Deputy Commissioner John Twomey that, in committees held in private between Garda and authority members, a lot of discussion had centred on falling detection rates this year for some very serious crime types.

Violent crime

These included not only sexual offences but also violent crimes against the person and property-based crimes. Ms Gillespie welcomed recent assurances from the Garda that the deterioration in detection rates for property crimes had been brought under control.

But the fall in the detection of sex crimes was a real concern.

“We have a number of strands of work behind this to fully understand it,” Mr Twomey said. “But there still has been quite a number of them that have been detected.”

He believed some cases currently being worked on would conclude and bring the detection rates up to their usual levels, which were not disclosed.

The Garda previously claimed an average detection rate of 43 per cent for all crime, though the Garda Inspectorate said the real figure was 26 per cent.