Significant anomalies in information provided to audit from Garda pulse system
More than 5,400 cases of children removed from families by gardaí over eight years
The audit, carried out by the special rapporteur for child protection, Geoffrey Shannon (above), found there were significant anomalies in the information provided to it from pulse and there was significant difficulty in extracting complete and reliable statistical information. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
More than 5,400 cases of children being removed by gardaí from their parents or guardians were recorded on the garda Pulse records system over an eight-year period, an audit has found.
The Dublin region had the largest number, with more than 1,320 cases, followed by the south eastern region with more than 1,070 and the southern region with almost 1,050.
There were more than 800 cases in the northern region, almost 650 cases in the eastern region and 540 in the western region.
Within those regions, Dublin West, which includes Tallaght, saw the highest number of cases, more than 370. There was a marked drop-off in cases here from 61 in 2013, to 14 in 2014, possibly attributable to negative publicity surrounding the case of a Roma child who was temporarily removed from parents in Tallaght because of having blond hair.
Tipperary also showed a high level of cases, 355, followed by almost 320 in Limerick and almost 300 in Wexford.
The garda pulse system records information on all garda cases. Gardaí phone the Garda Information Services Centre (GISC), in Castlebar Co Mayo, and an operator inputs the data about a case into the pulse system, the audit report said.
The audit, carried out by the special rapporteur for child protection, Geoffrey Shannon, found there were significant anomalies in the information provided to it from pulse and there was significant difficulty in extracting complete and reliable statistical information.
A large numbers of data fields were left blank or not fully completed and there were gaps and omissions, the audit found. The difficulties encountered by the audit “may reflect problems with the collection and management of operational information by An Garda Síochána”, the audit found.
It said “problems with data management” posed “obstacles for both evidence-based policing and wider organisational accountability to the public”.
It also found there were ambiguities in relation to the role of GISC and “whether it is aiding or undermining comprehensive and accurate reporting of cases on the system, and more generally, its role in the management of key statistical data on the work of AGS”.
Pulse was also examined in detail for the year 2014, when there were 560 valid cases.
The children involved were a broad range of ages, but more than half were aged 13 to 18. There were also more boys than girls. In two cases, involving foreign nationals, no gender was recorded, the audit found.
The nationality recorded for almost 78 per cent of the children, 419, was Irish. The largest foreign nationality recorded was Nigerian, followed by Romanian. In almost 30 cases there was no record of nationality.
In a quarter of the cases, gardaí had initially been contacted by parents, caregivers, foster carers or residential care staff seeking help with a dangerous child. In more than 40 per cent of the cases, 233, there was no record of the child’s home circumstances; when there was a record, 217 children lived with their parents, 18 with relatives and 73 with others.
The reasons gardaí decided to remove children in 2014 included suspicion of abuse or neglect; concern for child’s welfare; suspected emotional abuse, neglect; physical abuse or sexual abuse; danger to self or others; child under the influence of drugs or alcohol; domestic violence; mental health issues with child or parent; substance abuse of parents leading to neglect. There was an overlap of reasons in the majority of cases.