Interim Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan has rejected suggestions that the force massaged crime figures, after the Garda Inspectorate revealed many crimes were not being recorded and that detection rates were much lower than claimed.
Revelations about the lack of clear procedure and oversight into how crime was recorded was just one in a series of damaging findings by the inspectorate at the end of its two-year review into how the Garda investigated crime.
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald acknowledged the report had raised serious concerns and represented a "challenging" interrogation of how the Garda investigates crime. She agreed with the head of the Garda Inspectorate, chief inspector Bob Olson, that the report published by his agency represented a watershed moment for the Government and Garda to reform policing.
"Whatever the difficulties that have given rise to it, we now have a once in a generation chance to modernise fundamentally An Garda Síochána, " she said.
While the new Policing Authority was already being introduced, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman was being made stronger and the first open competition was being held to find a new Garda Commissioner, Ms Fitzgerald said the Government was committed to further reforms.
The Garda's technology systems would be modernised with investment and the Central Statistics Office would carry out a wider analysis of how crime was recorded. She welcomed the fact the Garda was creating a new "data quality team" and new victim liaison offices in every division.
Bob Olson stopped short yesterday of branding the Garda dysfunctional, “because it does function”. However, he said if other police forces were examined as closely as his organisation had reviewed the Garda over the past two years, he doubted if they would need the same level of reform the inspectorate has now suggested for the Garda.
Among the most pressing findings by the inspectorate were:
- Information technology available to other police forces for 30 years still not available to Garda;
- Studies of sample grounds of offences found under-recording of crime in the region of 38 per cent;
- While the Garda claimed a national crime detection rate of 43 per cent, the inspectorate said the real figure was 26 per cent;
- Garda sergeants and inspectors overburdened with administration were unable to oversee the investigative work of rank and file members;
- Probationer gardaí mentoring others still on probation because more senior personnel were not available for help and advice;
- Often inexperienced gardaí leading investigation into serious crime because they were first to a crime scene and detectives were never trained to be detectives;
- Some Garda members saw domestic violence investigations as a waste of time. Many victims felt neglected and that gardaí had no interest in solving crimes;
- More than 32,000 suspects who should have had finger prints taken in 2012 and 2013 evaded the measure, including suspected rapists and murderers.
In response to its findings, the inspectorate recommended changes to how crime is recorded on the Garda’s Pulse database, the establishment of serious crime investigation teams in the regions and the greater supervision of crime investigation. It said skills for gathering evidence also needed to be improved and that the level of service provided to the victims of crime after their initial contact with the force needed to be reformed.