Minister confirms protected disclosures made over cancellation of 999 calls

Heather Humphreys tells TD officials will provide her with information

Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys said she shared the concerns expressed by others over what appeared to be the continuation of inappropriate cancellation and classification of 999 calls since the introduction of the new procedures.  Photograph: Gareth Chaney /Collins Photos Dublin

Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys said she shared the concerns expressed by others over what appeared to be the continuation of inappropriate cancellation and classification of 999 calls since the introduction of the new procedures. Photograph: Gareth Chaney /Collins Photos Dublin

 

A number of protected disclosures have been made on the cancellation of 999 emergency calls, Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys has confirmed.

Ms Humphreys declined to state how many protected disclosures were made when pressed on the issue by Social Democrats joint leader Catherine Murphy who asked “have there been any, how many and how have they been dealt with?”.

The Minister replied: “There have been and I will get my officials to provide you with that information.”

Ms Murphy raised the issue during Dáil question time in the wake of the revelation that Garda members continued to cancel 999 calls made by members of the public, despite months of controversy over the practice and new systems being introduced to prevent calls being cancelled.

Last year it first emerged some Garda personnel in charge of receiving 999 calls and dispatching frontline gardaí to emergencies had been marking as “cancelled” thousands of 999 calls each month.

Between the start of 2019 and last October, some 1.4 million calls were made to 999, of which 163,778 were “priority 1” calls. Of those priority 1 calls, some 22,595, or 14 per cent, of the total, were cancelled.

Among these were just over 3,000 domestic violence calls.

Ms Humphreys said “I share the authorities’ concern about the continuation of what appear to be inappropriate cancellation and classification of calls since the introduction of the new procedures.

“These circumstances will of course be considered by the authority as part of their continuing oversight of the Garda review of this matter” as would the work being carried out by an external policing expert, appointed to assist the Policing Authority.

Ms Humphreys said her department “has ongoing engagement with the Garda authorities in relation to their work to address the issues which have arisen in respect of management of 999 calls”.

Ms Murphy asked what the press office communicated when the issue was first reported in the media late last year because “there’s a sense that what was communicated initially was that there was some technical issue and that certainly is not my reading of the situation”.

She also pressed the Minister as to whether protected disclosures had been made about the cancellation of the calls.

Ms Humphreys confirmed there had been but gave little detail and said the TD would be provided with the information by her department officials.

But she stressed: “It’s important to say that this is oversight in operation here. And that’s, that’s exactly what this is about.”

She said “that shows us that the structures are in place there that when there is a problem, the oversight is there to deal with that problem”.

The Minister added that the Garda Commissioner is due to appear before the Policing Authority next week and said “I think we need to, to allow the police policing authority to do the work” on the matter.