Retired Garda Detective Chief Superintendent John O’Brien has said that while it was appropriate for Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, to acknowledge the failings that occurred with the failure to prosecute thousands of crimes, it should be done with “a sense of perspective and proportionality”.
Mr O’Brien was commenting after it emerged 7,894 criminal offences committed by 3,489 child suspects were not progressed because of “Garda inaction” over a seven-year period.
Some 57 of the suspects are now dead, with most dying after they turned 18.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris described the debacle as a “failure” on the part of his force, adding it was “embarrassing” and “professionally humiliating”. He apologised to the child offenders, their victims and the public.
The Gardaí involved should be held accountable, Mr O'Brien told RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show, but it wasn’t necessary to find “a whipping boy”.
He warned that sometimes “playing the blame game ends up wrecking what it was trying to change.”
“This is a Garda report speaking out about Garda failings,” added Mr O’Brien. But he felt that the message could have been conveyed in 20 minutes. Having a two-hour and 22 minutes press conference had been “excruciatingly embarrassing.”
It could “wreck the very thing it is trying to rehabilitate,” he said.
Looking at the figures released on Thursday, Mr O’Brien said that 55 “serious” crimes out of 158,521 represented a percentage of 0.035% of activity. He also said that under EU and UN conventions going to court is the last resort when dealing with juveniles.
On the same programme Vicky Conway, a former member of the Policing Authority, said that the problem was that often the juveniles involved went on to commit more serious offences. Proper intervention could have changed the course of their lives, she said.
She said: "What had happened was not fair on the children, they were left in limbo and were entitled to have their cases heard.
“It hasn’t gone away.”
Criminologist Matt Boden asked what had been the outcome for the children involved. “We need to know what happened to them?” he asked.
"The report was good for policing, it was important for the public to see what was going on," he added.