Garda civilian analysts ‘belittled and treated poorly’ over homicide figures

Pair describe ‘significant pressure’ to sign off on report they knew was ‘completely inaccurate’

Garda civilian analysts Lois West and Laura Galligan told the Justice Oireachtas Committee they were “belittled and treated poorly”, put under pressure to resile from their findings and their “integrity was undermined and attacked”.

Garda civilian analysts Lois West and Laura Galligan told the Justice Oireachtas Committee they were “belittled and treated poorly”, put under pressure to resile from their findings and their “integrity was undermined and attacked”.

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Two Garda civilian analysts have outlined what they claim is poor treatment by senior Garda management and pressure they were put under when they began finding and then highlighting problems with how the force had been recording homicides.

They have told the Justice Oireachtas Committee they were “belittled and treated poorly”, put under pressure to resile from their findings and their “integrity was undermined and attacked”.

The civilian analysts – Lois West and Laura Galligan — were also put under “significant pressure” to sign off on a report about homicide misclassifications that they knew was “completely inaccurate”and “misleading”.

The two Garda civilian analysts said their treatment at the hands of senior Garda management had improved recently when some journalism highlighting their case had been published.

The Irish Times first revealed their concerns, without naming the woman, in coverage last month. Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said at the time he was not aware of the women’s disclosure made to the Oireachtas Justice Committee after it was revealed first in The Irish Times.

However, the two women have now appeared before the committee in public and outlined their experiences in a public forum for the first time.

Ms West said that she and Ms Galligan were in a “lonely place” in trying to raise their concerns over the past 15 months.

However, she said that the “way we were raised” meant they could not sign off on data they knew was wrong.

Ms West believed senior Garda management had failed in its duty of care and had resisted taking on board her’s and Ms Galligan’s complaints.

But ultimately the force had “underestimated” them and finally had to accept how strongly they believed in continuing to “fight” to ensure homicides were dealt with properly.

The issue was not about statistics, it was about doing right by the victims of crime, including those unlawfully killed.

They did not want to “scaremonger” about homicides not being investigated properly. Some of their questions in that regard had been answered; others were yet to be answered.

They said a wider review of homicides now underway needed examine each case in order that full assurance could be offered that all aspects of the Garda’s approach to homicides was as it should have been.

Their evidence is damning for the Garda and is also problematic for the Policing Authority, whose reaction to them they have questioned when they repeatedly approached the oversight agency to raise their concerns.

They said they were constantly put under pressure to “sign off on” reports about the extent of problems with the classification of homicides that minimised the problem.

And when they heard in the media, and after senior officers appeared beforethe Policing Authority, claims that a review of homicides within the Garda had been completed they were “extremely surprised”.

Homicide is a term applied to all unlawful killings. They include murder,manslaughter and other unlawful killings such as death by dangerous driving,among others. The analysts had found homicides recorded as non crime incidents, homicides notrecorded until a long time after they occurred and homicides where the wrong weapon was recorded in the classification.

Other homicides were recorded in the wrong year, some were recorded as public disorder incidents and in one case involving murder and suicide it was recorded as a “non crime” incident.

Ms West, the deputy head of the Garda Analysis Service, said when the first shortcomings in how the Garda was recording homicides emerged in late 2016 she told Ms Galligan, the analyst who uncovered the errors, the issue was of deep concern to her.

“I said we need to smack the [GARDA]organisation around the face with this. This is potentially very explosive,” she told the committee this morning.

She also said the inaccurate and incomplete records compiled by the Garda on the PULSE computer database completely undermined the force’s ability to tackle and solve crime.

It also undermined the Garda’s ability to protect potential victims; including women at risk of being harmed by partners with a previous history of very violent conduct, up to and including murder.

Ms West said of the errors with the homicide data down the years: “It went to the heart of the ability of the Garda to serve and protect the public.”

She also had concerns that suspect behaviour and even serious crimes were not being filed under the names of the people they have should been in Garda records. Because of this, the Garda vetting of people who needed Garda clearance to work with children or vulnerable people may now be missing warning signs or even past crimes of people who apply for clearance.

Ms West was “aghast” when senior Garda management last year presented a report on the homicide misclassifications to the Policing Authority and tried pass it off as a “joint enterprise” between Garda officers and civilian analysts.

Analysts were excluded by the Garda offices from the process of drawing-up that report, yet it was presented to the authority as a report by the analysts.

When the analysts eventually saw the report, they realised it was littered with errors and findings that under estimated the extent of the misclassification of homicides.

That report was presented to the Policing Authority last April. Internally Ms West and Ms Galligan continued to apply pressure for the Garda to accept correct methodology for counting and classifying crimes.

Eventually, after much media coverage of the growing controversy, it was agreed Ms Galligan’s methodology for counting crime would be used.

And when a second report was presented to the Policing Authority last September the findings were very different to the report presented in April.

Both reports covered homicides in the period from 2013 to 2015 and in the September report some 12 deaths needed to be upgraded to homicides.

And now a wider review was underway for all homicides committed between 2003 and 2017.

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