Cork mother to sue State over Pulse entries

Children aged four and five had been put on Garda database and given criminal tags

A mother whose two children’s details have been removed from the Garda Pulse system in recent days is preparing to sue the State.

Caroline Dunne, from Cork city, whose children Mary (4) and Francis (5), were recorded and given criminal tag numbers in the Garda computerised system, has been informed by the Garda her children had been inputted as "a low-level intelligence item", but these were now "considered superfluous".

She says the Garda is “still trying to justify” its actions, that the explanations she has been given are inadequate, and her children’s constitutional right to privacy has been violated.

In a statement the Garda said: “The details were put on the Pulse system initially for legitimate policing reasons. Following a recent review the records have been deleted.”

The children's details were logged in Pulse in July 2011 after she and her husband visited a Garda station in Cork to have passport applications stamped. Ms Dunne was not aware her children were in the Pulse system until she was informed last year by freelance journalist Gemma O'Doherty. The case led to questions as to whether An Garda Síochána had been racially profiling Travellers.

Explanation

Ms Dunne, through her solicitor, Frank Buttimer, had demanded her children's details be removed from Pulse and asked why they had been inputted.

In recent weeks, in a letter from the Assistant Garda Commissioner, Mr Buttimer was told: “This matter was entered into the Pulse system as a low- level intelligence item concerning the movements of your clients, whose actions are a matter of concern for An Garda Síochána in the Cork city area from a criminal perspective.

“Your clients’ children’s details are now considered superfluous in this case and have been removed. The removal of your clients’ children’s details is permanent.”

Ms Dunne said yesterday she was the sole client of Mr Buttimer in this case and she had no criminal background. “When I got this letter I was in shock. They are still trying to justify putting my children into Pulse. If my children were correctly put in the Pulse system, why have they now been removed?

“The situation now is my solicitor is writing back to them asking the reasons why my children were recorded in the Pulse system. Then we are preparing to take legal action against the State.

“Can you imagine a settled mother finding out from a reporter, standing in her home, that her children had been given criminal identity numbers by the gardaí?

Correspondence

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald last week responded to correspondence on the case from Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, who advocates for Travellers' rights.

In a letter dated October 9th she told the Donegal TD: "I have now been advised by the Garda Commissioner that arrangements are being made to remove the record of the two children in question from the Pulse system.

"I should also say the Garda Ombudsman Commission is investigating a complaint in relation to this matter and I therefore cannot comment further on this at the moment.

“More generally, the Garda Commission[er] has advised me that she has caused a detailed analysis of Pulse to be conducted to identify the extent to which children have been recorded on Pulse, and I will carefully consider the outcome of that analysis.”