Twelve families told deaths reclassified as homicides on Garda Pulse system
Garda liaison officers have contacted families of 12 dead whose records reclassified
Garda management ‘is adamant that all unlawful killings are investigated’, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said. File photograph: Getty Images
Gardaí have had to reclassify 12 deaths on the force’s Pulse computer system as homicides.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan told the Dáil that 524 cases between 2013 and 2015 had been examined and 41 cases had required further examination, “and out of those, 12 deaths were identified which required reclassification on Pulse”.
He said Garda liaison officers had been in contact with the families of the 12 deceased persons whose Pulse records had been reclassified.
Two civilian whistleblowers have made disclosures in recent weeks to members of the Oireachtas Justice Committee that some unlawful deaths were incorrectly classified as less serious crimes and not investigated as homicides.
Mr Flanagan repeated in the Dáil that Garda management “is adamant that all unlawful killings are investigated”. He reiterated that he had “asked An Garda Síochána for further formal assurances in this regard”.
Senior gardaí have repeatedly said that while mistakes were made in classifying or recording some homicides, all of the cases were investigated in full as homicides.
Mr Flanagan told Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan and Sinn Féin justice spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire that suggestions that 41 cases had to be reclassified were “not correct”.
Mr Flanagan said: “My understanding is that an issue emerged due to the fact that the classification of a crime may change as investigations evolve, for example, a murder charge may ultimately lead to a manslaughter conviction in the courts or an assault causing harm may subsequently result in a death some time later, necessitating a reclassification to murder or manslaughter.”
Mr O’Callaghan said he believed the cases were misclassified because “they are referred to on Pulse as the result of sudden death with a failure to refer to the possibility they may have been caused by a violent act or another individual who is suspected”.
He pointed out that senior Garda management had been informed of concerns over the accuracy of homicide data in November 2016, and the Policing Authority had raised it with Garda management in April 2017 but “very little appears to have been done to explore and resolve the problem”.
He believed there had to be a “full and accurate examination of the paper files in the State Pathologist’s office on suspicious deaths for the years 2003 to 2017” and said the review was not being treated with the seriousness it deserved.
Expanding on his view on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr O’Callaghan said: “There seems to be some hesitancy at completing the review... It’s not necessary to convert this into a national crisis. It just needs to be completed.”
Mr Ó Laoghaire said “the possibility that there are families who are not aware that their loved ones may have been the victims of homicide and died in another manner is of the utmost concern”.
He pointed out that “we have no real sense or indication from the Minister as to when the review will be completed”.
The Minister agreed with the urgency of the issue. He said the consistent recording of crime data is not an issue unique to Ireland. He wanted to “see a resolution at the earliest opportunity, but I recognise that issues of some complexity are involved”.