The Garda Representative Association blames ‘systemic failings’ for the lack of prosecutions in some 8,000 cases involving young people, and says it would be wrong to punish individual gardaí for the controversy.
However, a former member of the Policing Authority says it would be ‘hypocritical’ to complain about a lack of due procedure in prosecuting young people if gardaí are not disciplined for their wrongdoing.
The GRA yesterday said it has sought an “urgent meeting” with the Garda Commissioner regarding the effective operation of the Youth Diversion Programme, following the publication of a garda review of the scheme from 2010 to 2017.
It found that some 8,000 crimes involving 3,500 minors were not properly followed up, and that there were 3,400 victims affect.
Of these cases, the report found 55 serious crimes including a rape, another sexual assault, child neglect, and a threat to kill.
Reacting to the report’s publication, the GRA said the failures are evidence of “the absence of co-ordinated training, allied to inadequate supervisory management systems and technological resources”.
It defended gardaí, saying the bulk of the issues arose during the recession when gardaí were ‘starved’ of resources.
However, it did acknowledge that the failure to prosecute juvenile offenders “should not have happened” and that the victims “required and deserved better from An Garda Síochána”.
“While a review needs to take place, it would be wrong that individual Gardai are smeared or punished in every case for an absence of resources and over-working, administrative problems, managerial oversight and potentially insufficient evidence or decisions made during investigations,” the GRA said.
“The focus should now be on rectifying these problems permanently across all dimensions: training, technology, operational processes, oversight, and supervisory management support,” the GRA said.
However, Vicky Conway, a former member of the Policing Authority, said she believes there should be disciplinary processes for gardaí involved in the failings.
She also questioned whether there were only 55 serious cases involved in the controversy, given the previous issues that have arisen over the force’s classification of crimes.
“If gardaí did wrong, they should be disciplined in relation to that, or at least the disciplinary process should begin and it should be considered,” Ms Conway said.
Speaking on the same programme, retired Garda Detective Chief Superintendent John O’Brien has said that while it is appropriate for the Garda Commissioner to acknowledge the failings that occurred, it should be done with “a sense of perspective and proportionality.”
“There were 158,521 referrals over a seven-year period to an Garda Siochana under the Juvenile Diversion Scheme, and all of those 55 are deemed to be serious, and that includes one allegation of rape and assault and probably other serious offenses. That amounts to 0.35% of all of the diversion activity during that period of time,” he said.
Mr O’Brien was critical of the Policing Authority’s press conference on the issue on Thursday, and said the two hours and 22 minutes duration had been “excruciatingly embarrassing”.
He described the conference as a ‘public whipping boy situation’, and said retrospectively disciplining gardaí is a ‘daft idea’.
“The fact of the matter is that most of the guards who were in senior positions during that seven-year period are no longer now in the post,” he said.