Cancellation of domestic violence 999 calls falls by two-thirds after controls introduced

Number of emergency calls cancelled by gardaí drops by more than half since November

New measures were put in place in November to ensure it was no longer possible to cancel emergency 999 calls about domestic abuse. Photograph: iStock

New measures were put in place in November to ensure it was no longer possible to cancel emergency 999 calls about domestic abuse. Photograph: iStock

 

The number of 999 calls being cancelled by Garda members has fallen by more than half, and domestic violence call cancellations have dropped by two-thirds, since controls were introduced on the practice last year.

The sharp drop in the number of calls being cancelled was immediate and has been sustained in the eight months since new tighter procedures were introduced.

Before the changes were made last November to make it harder to cancel 999 calls, some 14 per cent of all calls were being cancelled. However, that has now reduced to 6 per cent.

In the area of domestic violence specifically, some 5.9 per cent of calls were being cancelled before the changes were implemented and that has now dropped to 2 per cent.

When senior Garda officers learned that such a large number of calls were being cancelled, new measures were put in place to ensure it was no longer possible to cancel emergency 999 calls about domestic abuse or to reclassify them as another crime type.

For other “priority 1” emergency calls – which can include assaults, public order offences and sexual crimes – the changes implemented meant those 999 calls could only be cancelled after they were reviewed by at least two people.

Between the start of 2019 and the end of last October, there were 1.44 million calls to 999. Of those, 52,160 were domestic violence incidents.

There are now 19,000 cancelled calls relating to different crime emergencies – aside from the 3,120 domestic calls – to be checked by the Garda. The process of checking why the calls were cancelled is expected to continue for many months, probably into next year, according to sources.

Independent investigation

The Policing Authority is also expected to ask an independent agency, possibly an auditing firm, to carry out an investigation once more of the basic verification work on the cancelled calls has been completed by Garda investigators.

The independent examination, similar to the inquiry by Crowe Horwath into the inflation of alcohol breath tests carried out on motorists, is expected to include checks about whether people from ethnic minority groups, or those from certain socio-economic backgrounds, were more likely to have their calls cancelled.

Policing Authority chairman Bob Collins has strongly criticised the Garda for the slow release of information to him and his colleagues after the scale of 999 emergency call cancellations emerged within the Garda last autumn, after an audit by the force.

Significant decrease

That snapshot on the very significant decrease in cancellation rates is part of the information on the controversy that has been supplied by Garda headquarters to the Policing Authority.

Garda members are permitted to cancel 999 calls for a range of reasons, but mainly when multiple calls are received about the same crime or incident. The internal Garda investigation began last October and has focused initially on the 3,120 domestic violence calls that were cancelled. It found 35 per cent were cancelled legitimately.

In another 20 per cent of cases, a policing response was provided but official records were never created, which would have reduced the workload for gardaí. In another 45 per cent of cases, further checks were still being made to establish why the calls were cancelled.

Any Garda member found to have cancelled calls without good reason, or who provided a policing response but did not follow up by creating an official record, could face disciplinary action. The majority of the calls were cancelled by staff working in the Garda call centres around the country.