Garda management under pressure over homicide figures
Jim O’Callaghan accuses senior gardaí of misleading Policing Authority about report
Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’ Callaghan: Garda management failed to explain why the force’s civilian analysts had been excluded from the preparation of the first report for the authority. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Pressure is mounting on senior Garda management over its handling of a controversy around homicides figures, with Fianna Fáil saying the force could still not guarantee that all the deaths involved had been investigated properly.
The party’s justice spokesman, Jim O’Callaghan, has also accused senior gardaí of misleading the Policing Authority, claiming the Garda had only committed to a thorough review of homicides after its own analysts refused to sign off on a report presented to the authority last April.
When a second report, about the same deaths, which occurred between 2013 and 2015, was completed for the authority last September, it emerged 12 deaths had been incorrectly classified by gardaí and needed to be upgraded to homicide.
“[The first report] was presented to the Policing Authority as being a thorough and reliable report approved of by the analysis service when this was clearly not the case,” Mr O’Callaghan said.
The Dublin Bay South TD added that Garda management had also failed to explain why the force’s civilian analysts had been excluded from the preparation of the first report for the authority.
Garda management has already been told by the authority that it wants an explanation at its public meeting next Thursday as to why the homicide reports presented to it last April and September contained different findings.
The Oireachtas Committee on Justice has been contacted by two Garda civilian staff members who have disclosed their concerns that homicides were not only wrongly classified as less serious crimes such as assaults, but were also not properly investigated.
The committee on Wednesday met a senior Garda delegation including Assistant Commissioner Mick Finn and Dr Gurchand Singh, the head of the force’s analysis service.
Dr Singh said neither he nor his analysts were involved in drawing up the report for the authority in April, despite carrying out the data analysis on homicides. Neither he nor his staff were shown the report before it was submitted.
He said that when he saw it “some weeks” later he could not understand some of the conclusions included, did not agree with the findings and could not sign off on the report.
A number of Garda civilian analysts continued to raise their concerns internally about the homicide review. They were eventually more fully included in determining classifications and also drawing up a second report.
The Garda has insisted that notwithstanding some classification errors, all homicide cases were properly investigated.
A review of homicides between 2013 and 2017 is now under way and Mr Finn said it would take six months. Under article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, all nations are obliged to investigate homicides, or unlawful killings, fully and promptly.
Dr Singh said he could not offer any assurance that all homicides reviewed by gardaí and his civilian staff had been fully investigated. He told the committee that neither he nor his staff had been granted access by senior Garda management to the investigation files of the homicide cases reviewed.
Mr Finn said he was confident it would be found that all homicides were investigated properly, even in cases that were incorrectly classified on the Garda’s Pulse crime database.
As part of the review of homicide cases, Dr Singh said his staff checked each death by examining postmortem results and comparing them against the Pulse record of the cases. But despite “arguing for” access to the Garda’s investigation files into each case, the civilian analysts were refused access.
Mr O’Callaghan said he was concerned there was a “deliberate attempt made to exclude” the civilian analysts in the lead-up to the Policing Authority meeting last April when the report was presented.
“I also have a concern there was a deliberate attempt to push through the report that was referred to at the meeting of the authority in the hope that that would be a line drawn in the sand under the homicide review,” he said.
“At its worst, I have a concern there was an attempt to hoodwink the Policing Authority of the meeting of April 2017.”