Gardaí concerned budget issues will delay training for sex crime units

Garda could not take part in specialist child interviewer course due to budgetary constraints

The lack of specialist child interviewers in the Garda has  been criticised by the Policing Authority, the Garda Inspectorate and the Garda Ombudsman. Photograph: Getty Images

The lack of specialist child interviewers in the Garda has been criticised by the Policing Authority, the Garda Inspectorate and the Garda Ombudsman. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Six more specialist Garda units to handle sex crime are to be established before the end of this year, but rank-and-file members are worried budget shortfalls may delay the opening of more.

To date the Garda has set up divisional protective services units (DPSU) in four divisions - Cork and Louth and in Cabra and Clondalkin in Dublin. The units comprise of gardaí specially trained to handle cases with vulnerable complainants such as victims of sexual and domestic violence, including children.

They also handle sex worker, child welfare and human trafficking cases, as well as the monitoring of sex offenders in the community.

The plan is to have a DPSU in all 29 Garda divisions by the end of 2019.

According to a Garda spokesman, another six DPSUs will come on line in the next two months - in Kerry, Limerick, Galway, Waterford, Kilkenny and south central Dublin. The rest will be established in three stages during 2019.

However, cuts to Garda budgets nationwide as a result of overtime expenditure mean that some gardaí are being told they cannot participate in the specialist training courses required to work in the DPSUs, and members are concerned this will delay their opening.

A Garda spokesman said projects such as the DPSUs were funded through the national Modernisation and Renewal Programme, and to date its implementation had not been hampered by budgetary constraints. “Of course, any expenditure needs to ensure that there is value for money,” he added.

However, in the Cavan-Monaghan division at least one garda has been told they cannot take part in a specialist child interviewer course this month due to budgetary constraints. The garda has already completed stage one of the course, and will not be able to complete stage two until 2019.

Two more gardaí in the south of the country have also been told they cannot participate in scheduled training courses due to budgetary constraints at divisional level.

“When you do the two-week course you’re supposed to follow it up very quickly or you’ll have forgotten all you’ve done,” a Garda source complained. “It’s really kicking the can down the road in relation to setting up the units. It’s the most vulnerable people who are affected. These units need to be set up.”

The lack of specialist child interviewers in the Garda has previously been criticised by the Policing Authority, the Garda Inspectorate and the Garda Ombudsman.

Budgetary constraints on overtime have also led to gardaí being told they can’t go on other specialised courses; last week several gardaí in the northern region were told there was no money to send them on planned motorcycle training.

“It’s all down to budgets and no money,” another garda said. “It’s killing everything in relation to training around the country. There’s is no CPD continuing professional development.”

James Morrisroe, the Garda Representative Association representative for the Cavan-Monaghan division, said it was “long past time that a proper professional national training plan, properly-funded, is put in place for all frontline gardaí”.

He said a ring-fenced national training budget should be put in place rather than relying on divisional budgets.

“It defies logic that the professional development of members would be totally dependent on locally-allocated funds.

“There has been no co-ordinated national training on new legislation for nearly a decade now. Since 2009 there have been over 50 legislative Acts relevant to An Garda Síochána signed into law without a training plan for members”.

*This article was amended on November 15th, 2018, to clarify the Garda training courses themselves were not cancelled but that gardai were prevented from partaking during to overtime budget constraints.