Front-line gardaí will no longer investigate rapes, child sex abuse

Radical new process begins to specialise investigation of sexual violence and trafficking

The reforms will bring to an end the much-criticised practice of most sex crimes being investigated by the Garda member who responded to the initial emergency call.  Photograph: Frank Miller

The reforms will bring to an end the much-criticised practice of most sex crimes being investigated by the Garda member who responded to the initial emergency call. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

Front-line gardaí will no longer investigate rapes or child sexual abuse under radical policing reforms.

Instead, all such crimes will be investigated by small specialist Garda teams in every Garda division, the first four of which began operating on Friday.

The development was recommended by the Garda Inspectorate and is part of Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s modernisation and reform programme.

It will bring to an end the much-criticised practice of most sex crimes being investigated by the Garda member who responded to the initial emergency call.

This practice often resulted in gardaí with no specialist training or expertise, and in some cases little experience, investigating rapes or domestic violence cases, leading to poor outcomes and low conviction rates.

The Garda Inspectorate found one third of domestic violence cases were not recorded, in any way, by the Garda.

However, the Garda National Protective Services Bureau is now establishing divisional protective services units in all 28 Garda divisions.

The first four 15-member teams began operating on Friday in the Louth, Cork and the Dublin West divisions. Their work will be monitored and reviewed for the next 12 months. At the end of that initial period, the remaining teams will be rolled out.

Each will be led by an inspector, with two sergeants and about 12 rank-and-file detectives.

Combating human trafficking

The Garda personnel assigned to the units have already been trained for the inquiries they will undertake and most are experienced in the area.

However, a system of continuous professional development modules is also planned. These are being delivered by a selection of NGOs including Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, One in Four and National Women’s Council of Ireland.

Some 44 Garda personnel have already been assigned to the divisional teams in Cabra, Clondalkin, Dundalk and Anglesea Street, Cork.

Later this month, they will receive a module of training on combating human trafficking.

They will also investigate sex crimes, online exploitation of children, domestic violence, human trafficking, organised prostitution, children missing in care and will run sex offender management.

Det Supt Declan Daly of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau said the protective services divisional teams would be managed locally and were a “ring fenced resource” for the investigation of sex crimes.

However, the units would receive support, guidance and training from the Dublin-based bureau.

He believed the specialisation of sexual violence investigative work would have a range of positive effects, including jailing more sex offenders.

“For us, increasing the conviction rates is important but they are not the only consideration,” he said. “It’s also about how with interact with victims and their satisfaction levels.

“If we deliver a consistent and professional approach the natural knock-on effect is a great satisfaction level from victims, increased support of them and more prosecutions and convictions.”

Domestic violence

Supt Daly said a domestic violence incident reported to the Garda in the early hours of the morning would be responded to by local gardaí on duty.

And those Garda personnel may continue to investigate the incident and deal with the victim long after the call-out. The same was true for some sexual assaults.

However if the same victim, for example, reported domestic violence more than once, or if the case involved a very extreme act of domestic violence or sexual assault, the divisional protective services unit would take over the investigation.

In the case of other sex crimes, they would be investigated exclusively by the divisional units and never by regular gardaí.

“All child sexual abuse cases will be dealt with by the divisional units, all rapes will be investigate by the units,” Supt Daly said.

“And that’s important because we will have specialist staff delivering that service to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

He said it was imperative that the 12-month trial now under way be used to perfect the rollout in 2018 of all protective services divisional units in the 28 Garda divisions nationwide.

“The whole concept is to deliver a consistent and professional approach to the investigation of specialist crime types,” he said.

“A person walking into a Garda station to report a sexual crime or domestic violence in, say, Louth, will get the very same professional service as somebody in Galway, Kilkenny, or any part of the country.”