The National Women’s Council of Ireland has said it is time for a major review of homicides to be completed and that a new Garda database is needed.
Orla O’Connor, the organisation’s director said a multi-agency approach is needed following cases relating to domestic violence, whereby health and psychology services are also examined.
Garda civilian analysts Lois West and Laura Galligan told the Oireachtas justice committee on Wednesday that misclassification and inaccurate recording of crimes left some women at risk of domestic violence.
They said in cases where men with a history of domestic violence entered into new relationships, for example, the risk to their new partners would be missed by the Garda if the men’s previous crimes were not recorded properly.
Ms West and Ms Galligan also said they were belittled and had their credibility attacked by senior Garda management when they raised concerns about whether adequate investigations were carried out into homicides they found to be incorrectly classified.
“There are constant problems in relation to data, not just in relation to domestic violence. The National Women’s Council of Ireland has said now is the time to call an end to Pulse [the Garda’s computer database],” Ms O’Connor said.
“There needs to be a new data system and one that lends itself to analysis. The problem with Pulse is so much of it is down to individuals inputting data and that’s where errors can come in. There has to be a better data system.”
Ms O’Connor said the review was initiated in 2016 during Frances Fitzgerald’s tenure as Justice Minister.
“We were promised it would be published in February 2017 and here we are a year later.”
Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the claims made by the two civilian Garda staff will be fully investigated by the Department of Justice and Minister.
Women’s Aid said it was concerned the review has taken so long and that delays are “preventing the development of a best practice response to domestic violence”.
Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid said the Garda civilian analysts’ accounts were “very troubling”.
“The women we support are often aware that their abuser has started a new relationship and are concerned about the safety of other women. “Domestic violence perpetrators are dangerous and they rarely stop. We need to see the organisations tasked with protecting victims of domestic violence and preventing future victims take this issue as seriously and as urgently as it deserves.”
Ms Martin said to date only three divisional protective services units, which respond to victims of domestic violence and identify those at high risk, had been rolled out.
“This needs to be extended as promised as a matter of urgency,” Ms Martin added.
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone said she was “concerned” by the evidence given to the justice committee.
“I am concerned and I know that the committee is hearing that [evidence]. A report will be done and that needs to be looked at.”