The Irish Times view on Garda inquiries: when crimes go unsolved

Victims – and the public at large – would benefit from more information on why cases do not go to court

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has told the Policing Authority that Garda members would be required to create a “reason not detected” record for any crime with no formal conclusion. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has told the Policing Authority that Garda members would be required to create a “reason not detected” record for any crime with no formal conclusion. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Court cases offer insight into the nature of crime in the Republic, the injury and trauma endured by victims and the response of An Garda Síochána to offending. However, many crimes go unsolved and for some types of offending, including sexual crimes, only a small fraction of cases reported to the Garda ever reach the courts. Very often the only information victims receive is that the Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to charge a suspect.

It is welcome, then, that moves are advanced within the Garda to begin recording the reasons why individual cases do not result in a formal conclusion. Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has told the Policing Authority that Garda members would be required to create a “reason not detected” record for any crime with no formal conclusion. The new system is due to be in place before the end of June, he said.

Over time, as records accrue, the number and type of crimes going unsolved will become clear. This will help better inform victims and expose any investigative weaknesses that must be addressed. Other changes being introduced include an obligation on gardaí to record the offender-victim relationship, if any, for every crime reported to the force. This will better capture the extent of domestic violence and, according to the Garda, will enhance the early identification of domestic abuse cases.

The State now has a record number of Garda members after prolonged accelerated recruitment. The level of expertise available within the force is also at an all-time high as the number of civilian Garda staff continues to grow. After years of investment, it is imperative the performance of the force in tackling crime is accurately recorded and the results published. Victims must also be kept informed.

In the past crime data has been poorly collated by the Garda and, at times, disgracefully massaged. The promise that it will now be used to better protect vulnerable victims and measure the Garda’s investigative performance must be closely monitored by the force’s oversight agencies.

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