The continued issues with the recording of crime statistics by An Garda Síochána only serves to undermine public confidence in the force, the chair of the Policing Authority has said.
During a public meeting in Dublin Castle on Thursday, authority chairwoman Josephine Feehily questioned senior Garda personnel about inconsistencies in the data which were flagged by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) this week.
The CSO found that 17 per cent of offences recorded on the Garda’s call and dispatch (CAD) system could not be found on the computerised PULSE database, with 40 per cent of public order incidents recorded on CAD never making it onto PULSE.
Ms Feehily and other members of the authority expressed concern that the gaps may be reflective of poor professional performance on behalf of rank and file gardaí throughout the country.
“So long as the CSO continue to enter caveats about the quality of your data, and the quality of crime statistics, which is what they are doing, then public confidence has the potential to be damaged,” she said to Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.
She added that despite obvious improvements in the quality of the data compiled by the force in recent years, the complete absence of some computerised records means “no data quality is going to fix it”.
Dr Vicky Conway, a member of the authority, asked whether CAD files were being created and later being destroyed by gardaí and if this would lead to disciplinary action.
Ms O’Sullivan said she was not aware of any such cases and shared the authority’s concerns about the accuracy of crime data.
Commenting on a recent Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) report which identified serious failures in the investigation of rape allegations by two young girls in 2008, Dr Conway expressed "deep concern" about the findings.
“One of the more striking parts in reading the GSOC report that was published two weeks ago is the fact that while the investigation initially progressed really well, [BUT]within six months of the investigation sergeant was transferred and it was almost three years before another invest sergeant was appointed to this case,” she said.
Ms O’Sullivan responded that the handling of the particular case referred to, in which charges against the accused 16 year-old were eventually dropped, was “unacceptable” and gave assurances that the processes for dealing with serious crimes perpetrated against minors are under review.
Assistant Commissioner Michael O'Sullivan told the meeting that a dozen attempted gangland assassinations related to the ongoing Kinahan-Hutch feud have been foiled by Garda activities since the Regency Hotel shootings in February.
Assistant Commissioner Jack Nolan said 162 searches have been conducted in relation to the feud, which has claimed seven lives so far this year, and that 45 people were arrested. More than 8,000 lines of enquiry were being followed by gardaí, he said.
The CSO figures showed a major reduction in break-ins reflected in latest CSO figures up to the second quarter of 2016.
The authority was told that running more than 40,000 checkpoints and initiating some 17,000 searches as part of Operation Thor had resulted in dozens of guns, thousands of rounds of ammunition and almost €2 million in cash being seized since March 2015.
“Firearms are an integral part of an organised crime group’s arsenal, and the more firearms we seize, the more difficult it is for them trying to start over again and import more firearms,” said Mr O’Sullivan.