Individual gardaí must not be ‘smeared’, says representative body

GRA claims failure in youth crime policing due to training and technology shortfalls

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris: the Garda Representative Association is seeking an urgent meeting with him about the “invaluable” Garda youth diversion programme.   Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris: the Garda Representative Association is seeking an urgent meeting with him about the “invaluable” Garda youth diversion programme. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

The Garda Representative Association has claimed it would be wrong to “smear” individual gardaí over shortcomings in youth crime policing because the problems were caused by a lack of resources.

The association is now seeking an urgent meeting with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to discuss the “effective operation” of what it described as the “invaluable” Garda youth diversion programme.

It emerged this week that in the period from 2010 to 2017, a total of 7,894 criminal offences committed by 3,489 child suspects were not progressed because of “Garda inaction”.

The children were referred to the Garda youth diversion programme but were rejected by it as not suitable.

Appropriate interventions

However, while their cases should have be gone back into the justice system, for prosecution, they did not. Instead they lapsed in the system with no action ever taken. To date, 57 have died and the Policing Authority has said some of them would be alive had the appropriate interventions been made into their lives.

Some 3,400 gardaí were involved in the cases and the prospect of some of them being disciplined is now being considered. However, the GRA said it would be unfair to single out gardaí in this way.

It said the problems had arisen because of the “absence of co-ordinated training, allied to inadequate supervisory management systems” and technology.

“It is also clear that the bulk of the issues arose at the height of the recession between 2010 and 2015 when resources were starved from Garda services,” the association said in a statement, adding the focus should not be on resolving the problems.

“It would be wrong that individual gardaí are smeared or punished in every case for an absence of resources and over-working, administrative problems, managerial oversight and potentially insufficient evidence or decisions made during investigations.”

Internal review

However, the GRA acknowledged that what had happened was wrong and should not have happened.

An internal Garda review, the results of which were published on Thursday, examined all 158,521 referrals, involving 57,386 children, into the diversion programme between 2010 and 2017.

Some 103,515 referrals were deemed suitable for the programme and 55,506 were deemed not suitable. These unsuitable cases should have been progressed through the wider justice system, mainly via prosecutions.

But in 7,894 cases nothing further happened despite there being grounds, and enough evidence, to pursue the cases.

The crimes the children committed included one rape and one other sexual assault as well as drugs and firearms offences. A total of 55 crimes not pursued were deemed serious but most were less serious – criminal damage, theft, public orders and others.