Senior gardaí to face Policing Authority over homicide report errors

Senior management due to answer questions on misclassification of unlawful killings

The Garda delegation is expected to be led by acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin. Photograph: Collins/File

The Garda delegation is expected to be led by acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin. Photograph: Collins/File

 

Members of senior Garda management are due to come before the Policing Authority this afternoon to answer questions on the misclassification of homicides.

The authority wants to know why two reports presented to it by the Garda five months apart arrived at different conclusions.

It was not until a second report, submitted last September, that 12 deaths in the home were upgraded to homicide.

The Garda has already said that between 2003 and 2017, some 89 road deaths that should have been classified as homicide, an unlawful killing, were not. Instead they were classified on the Garda’s computerised Pulse database as more minor offences such as speeding.

A review of over 500 domestic deaths between 2013 and 2015 flagged 41 for further investigation. And eventually 12 were upgraded to homicide. The had originally been record as more minor crimes, including no fatal assaults.

Now a much wider review of domestic deaths is underway, taking in all cases between 2003 and 2017.

Homicides are all unlawful killings including murder, manslaughter and deaths by dangerous driving, among others.

This afternoon at a public meeting of the Policing Authority, a delegation of the most senior Garda officers will be questioned on the whole issue of homicides.

Discrepancies

The authority wants an explanation for the discrepancies between homicide review reports in April and September.

It is also seeking an update on a review it has asked the Garda to carry out to check if members of the Garda have been updating crime records with the outcomes of court cases relating to those crimes.

The Garda delegation - expected to be led by acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin - will also be asked to outline the timeframe for its review of all homicides over the 15-year period to last year.

The authority is also expected to press the officers on whether they can still offer their repeatedly stated assurance that all homicides were investigated properly despite some being misclassified as less serious crimes.

Last month two Garda civilian employees made a disclosure to members of the Oireachtas Committee on Justice about the handling by Garda headquarters of the homicide misclassification issue.

They allege some homicides that were incorrectly classified were also not investigated in a way they should have been.

The two Garda civilian staff members also believe when shortcomings with the recording of homicides were first raised, they were not taken seriously and information was not passed to the Policing Authority in a timely manner.

Last week, on foot of the disclosure, the Oireachtas Committee invited senior Garda officers and civilian staff to meet it and answer questions.

Data analysis

Assistant Commissioner Mick Finn and Dr Gurchand Singh, the head of the force’s analysis service, took most of the questions.

Dr Singh said neither he nor his analysts were involved in drawing up the report for the Policing Authority last April, despite carrying out the data analysis on homicides. Neither he nor his staff were shown the report before it was submitted.

And when he finally saw it “some weeks” later he could not understand some of the conclusions in it. He did not agree with the findings and could not sign off on the report.

A number of Garda analysts continued to raise their concerns internally about the homicide review. And they were eventually more fully included in determining classifications and also drawing up a second report.

And in that report, presented to the Policing Authority in September, 12 deaths in the 2013-2015 period were upgraded to homicide.

Mr Finn told the Oireachtas committee the review of all cases between 2003 and 2017 would take six months. He believed it would show all homicides were investigated properly.

Under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, all nations are obliged to investigate homicides, or unlawful killings, fully and promptly.