Garda civilian staff endured ‘15 months of torment’

Analysts Lois West and Laura Galligan claim pressure to approve incorrect homicide data

Lois West, deputy head of the Garda Analysis Service, and senior crime and policing analyst Laura Galligan were “belittled and treated poorly” when they identified errors in how the Garda was recording homicides. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Lois West, deputy head of the Garda Analysis Service, and senior crime and policing analyst Laura Galligan were “belittled and treated poorly” when they identified errors in how the Garda was recording homicides. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

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Two Garda civilian workers have outlined “15 months of torment” during which they claim they were pressured to approve homicide data they knew was wrong and which they did not agree with.

The analysts also said they felt “let down” by the Policing Authority.

Lois West, deputy head of the Garda Analysis Service, said not only had she and senior crime and policing analyst Laura Galligan received no support from the Policing Authority, but it had “told tales” on them, informing Garda management they had approached the authority.

The women told the Justice Oireachtas Committee they were “belittled and treated poorly” when they identified a litany of errors in how the Garda was recording homicides.

They were put under pressure to resile from their findings and to approve homicide misclassifications which they knew were “completely inaccurate” and “misleading”.

Their “integrity was undermined and attacked” and they said they were very thankful they at least had each other to count on for support.

Recent improvement

Their treatment by Garda management had improved recently when some reports highlighting their case had been published. The Irish Times first revealed their concerns, without naming the women, 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. He made no comment on Wednesday about the women’s evidence.

When eventually they were furnished with a copy of the report, it contained classifications and figures that they knew were wrong, yet it had been presented to the Policing Authority by senior Garda officers

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

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

It was also crucial for the Garda vetting of people applying for clearance to work with children or vulnerable people that any warning signs around them would be flagged when the crime database was checked. This would only happen if crime was recorded properly.

The women said they also believed those at risk of domestic abuse, up to and including being killed by a partner, would not be flagged in time by the Garda unless every violent incident their partner engaged in was properly recorded.

While they did not want to “scaremonger”, they said a wider review of homicides between 2003 and 2017 currently under way needed to examine each case in order to assure the public that all aspects of the Garda’s approach to homicides was as it should have been. However, they were concerned they had received no instructions yet about their own role in that review.

Domestic homicides

Their difficulties began in July 2016, when they were asked by the Garda National Protective Services Bureau to carry out a review of domestic homicides. It was intended the review would help the Garda improve its approach to domestic violence.

During the initial part of the review, Ms Galligan found issues with the recording of 41 domestic deaths of the 520 deaths between 2013 and 2015 that she had studied.

However, when the Policing Authority began asking questions on homicide misclassifications and sought a report from senior Garda management, Ms West and Ms Galligan and other civilian colleagues were excluded from the compiling of a report for the authority.

Instead, Garda officers compiled their own report and sent it on to the authority.

When eventually they were furnished with a copy of the report, it contained classifications and figures that they knew were wrong, yet it had been presented to the Policing Authority by senior Garda officers.

It also contained negative comment about Ms Galligan’s research, which was described as “inherently weak”, “inappropriate”, “confined” and “restricted”.

Both Ms West and Ms Galligan said they resisted the pressure to approve the data contained in the report. Ms Galligan drew the crime counting rules together in a document and continued, enduring great personal strain, to insist those rules be applied to analysing homicides.

When a second report was given to the Policing Authority in September 2017, Ms Galligan’s methodology was used and the correct figures were supplied, including 12 deaths that needed to be upgraded to homicide.

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