Policing Authority: Garda civilian analysts treated in ‘deplorable’ manner
Josephine Feehily says homicide data problems ‘most frustrating and most troubling piece of work’ for body
Deputy head of the Garda Analysis Service Lois West and senior crime and policing analyst, Laura Galligan
Two Garda civilian analysts who sought to expose problems with homicide data and the quality of homicide investigations were treated in a “deplorable” and “concerning” manner by some officers in Garda headquarters, the Policing Authority has said.
It has also now emerged that of 41 domestic homicides committed between 2013 and 2015 that were flagged for further checks, only 13 were found to be properly classified.
It has been known for some time that of the 41 cases, 12 had not been originally classified as homicides and needed to be upgraded to that status.
However, the Policing Authority has also now revealed that other changes needed to be made to the classification of 16 other cases. It means only 13 of the cases were found to be classified properly in full when examined closely.
Chair of the authority Josephine Feehily said it was very concerned generally about how the Garda authorities had handled the controversy around homicides data and the adequacy of homicide investigations.
“In many ways this has been the most frustrating and most troubling piece of work in which the authority has engaged,” Ms Feehily said.
“We began to examine the matter in March of last year. We are still not finished, and we are still not fully satisfied.”
A dispute centres on the fact that a review of domestic homicides, by Garda civilian analysts, found many homicides - unlawful killings - were not recorded properly.
Although Garda headquarters has insisted each homicide was investigated properly, a major review is under way.
Garda civilian analysts Lois West and Laura Galligan have been to the fore in raising the issue within the Garda.
However, while the Policing Authority said it was concerned at the way the women had been treated within the Garda, it has rejected an allegation from the two analysts that the body gave confidential information about them to Garda officers.
Ms West told the Oireachtas Committee on Justice two weeks ago she tried to contact the Policing Authority last year. She wanted to inform it that it had been supplied with incorrect and misleading information by Garda officers. But she was unable to secure a meeting with the authority.
She also said news of her approaches to the authority should have remained confidential. Instead, she said, the authority told the Garda authorities about her approaches. She said she felt “let down” by the authority.
However, appearing before the Oireachtas Committee on Justice this morning, Policing Authority chair Josephine Feehily said Ms West’s approach to the authority was not private.
“Their evidence about how they were treated in their workplace sounded deplorable and is very concerning,” Ms Feehily said of the way Ms West and Ms Galligan said they were pressured to sign off on data that was misleading and would have concealed errors in the homicide data.
They said they endured “15 months of torment”, but eventually the Garda authorities relented and now a major review of homicides is under way.
Ms West and Ms Galligan were also denied access to the Garda’s investigation files relating to cases they classified as homicides but were recorded as lesser crimes, sometimes as non-fatal assaults, in Garda records.
That led then to question whether adequate investigations were carried into every homicide.
A homicide is any unlawful killing - including murder, manslaughter, death by dangerous driving and a range of other offences.
Ms Feehily of the Policing Authority said the treatment at the hands of some Garda officers that the Ms Galligan and Ms West had previously outlined “speaks to issues of culture and speaking out” which the authority itself had continuously raised in its meetings with senior Garda management.
“Their experiences seem in this instance to have made this whole review more contentious than it needed to be,” Ms Feehily said.
However, she insisted that although Ms West and Ms Galligan were frustrated at being unable to meet the Policing Authority, it already had other sources and had all of the homicide information it needed to question Garda management.
“The authority has many sources of intelligence and information regarding this homicide review - perhaps more that Ms West and Ms Galligan realise - and has done a huge amount of work,” Ms Feehily said.
“The concerns which they brought to the authority’s attention were already known to us before their contact.
“At a point where the analysts seemed to be having difficulty getting access to certain information, authority members and staff were being offered opportunities to review investigation files, which we declined, and be briefed in detail on cases,” Ms Feehily said.
“In fact having reviewed their evidence to you, I can honestly say that there was very little of substance in it about the review which we didn’t know or have ground to believe since late March [or] early April of last year.”
Ms West and Ms Galligan took issue with a report on homicide data that was presented to the Policing Authority last April. They had not been shown the report before it was submitted to the authority. When they were shown it weeks later, the women were shocked because crimes that should have been classified as homicides were not.
But Ms Feehily said the authority was well aware from the time the report was submitted last April that there were serious problems with it. And she insisted the Policing Authority knew not to accept the report’s findings on homicides as fact.
“Far from being misled, the authority rejected the document submitted by the Garda Síochána to our April 2017 meeting in very strong terms,” she said.
“In addition to expressing serious disappointment at the late arrival of the correspondence at 8.30 pm the night before, we wrote to the Garda Commissioner to express significant concerns ‘about its tone, content and accuracy’. This was subsequently covered by the media.”
Ms Feehily also said the concerns being raised by Ms West and Ms Galligan were well known in Garda Headquarters.
“The fact that they were in contact with the Policing Authority could not have been considered by the authority to be confidential,” she said.
“For example, the analysts indicated that it was a member of senior Garda management who gave them the personal contact details of the authority staff member who was first telephoned in April 2017.”
She added that “in the interests of transparency” Garda management supplied a letter written by the women to the Garda authorities last May in which all of their concerns were outlined. Ms Feehily also said Ms West and Ms Galligan had been told that the authority had the letter.
“They were given an assurance that the Authority was live to all of their concerns and would be following up. And we did follow up,” she said.
“That letter underlined further for the authority the professional tensions around this whole matter, which were already visible to us.
“So their names and the fact and detail of their disquiet was a matter of record and in no way confidential,” Ms Feehily said.
“However, the content of the analysts’ direct communication with the authority was recognised as sometimes sensitive and was and is treated as confidential.
“They explicitly declined to allow later correspondence to be shared with Garda management, and that was fully honoured.”