Thousands more cancelled 999 calls being checked by Gardaí

More than 22,000 ‘priority one’ emergency calls reviewed including assaults, sex crimes

Speaking at a public meeting of the Policing Authority on Thursday, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris apologised to domestic violence victims whose calls were cancelled.  Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Speaking at a public meeting of the Policing Authority on Thursday, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris apologised to domestic violence victims whose calls were cancelled. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

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Gardaí investigating cancelled domestic violence 999 calls are also examining more than 19,000 other cancelled emergency calls related to “priority one” crimes such as sexual offences, assaults and burglaries.

The internal Garda inquiry is trying to determine if those other top-priority calls were cancelled without a proper policing response being provided, as was the case for many of the domestic violence cases.

It has also emerged that, when some 999 calls were taken, the wrong names, phone numbers and addresses were recorded by those taking the calls, meaning gardaí could not find addresses where it was alleged crimes were under way.

Policing Authority member Elaine Byrne asked Garda Commissioner Drew Harris if some 999 calls were cancelled “because of who made them” – such as Travellers, foreign nationals or people from specific socio-economic backgrounds. Mr Harris said the people who made the calls were being contacted and that would result in more information, and possible patterns, emerging.

Speaking at a public meeting of the Policing Authority on Thursday, Mr Harris apologised to domestic violence victims whose calls were cancelled.

“They are among the most vulnerable people in society and… some victims did not always receive the professional service we aim to deliver and victims are entitled to expect,” he said.

He was “dismayed” when he learned of the call cancellations, especially as the Garda organisation was reforming at present and a major effort had been made to reach out to domestic violence victims during the pandemic.

Stress, distress and fear

Policing Authority chairman Bob Collins said the cancellation of emergency calls was of very serious concern. He said “nobody rings 999 casually” and many callers were in “stress, distress and fear”. It took great “courage” for domestic violence victims to make a call, only for some Garda members to “make decisions” to cancel the calls.

Mr Collins also believed the matter should not be dealt with exclusively by the internal Garda investigation, saying an “independent review” was required.

Last autumn during a Garda audit it emerged some emergency calls to 999 had been classified as “cancelled”. An internal investigation was begun and focused initially on the domestic violence calls. Some 3,120 domestic violence calls were found to have been cancelled between the start of 2019 and last October.

Of those, 35 per cent had been cancelled legitimately, usually when multiple calls were received about the same incident. In another 20 per cent of cases, gardaí went to the home of the caller to make checks but the call was then marked as “cancelled”. That meant no official records, which often flag people as being at risk of domestic violence, were ever created of the incidents.

In the remaining 45 per cent of cancelled domestic violence calls, further information was being gathered, though in some cases no police response was provided.

In total, some 1.4 million 999 calls were made to the Garda between the start of 2019 and last October. Of those, 163,778 were “priority one” calls and 22,595 were cancelled, including the 3,120 domestic violence calls. All of the calls were now being checked to establish if other callers, aside from the domestic violence victims, had their calls cancelled inappropriately.

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