Crime figures up sharply but CSO voices concerns

Reported sex crimes, assaults, robberies and weapons offences have risen sharply, according to new crime statistics.

CSO figures show an increase in all but one of the 14 crime categories, including a jump in kidnappings and fraud offences, but the CSO has again stressed the figures were being published with a heavy caution to reflect their continuing concerns over of the quality of the Garda data.

The apparent surge in recorded crimes comes just a day after PSNI deputy police chief Drew Harris was announced as the next Garda commissioner.

There was confusion over suggestions the deputy chief constable might bring his own management team with him, but all senior positions in the force must go through a formal and open competition run by the Policing Authority. 

Five of the 10 most senior gardaí in the force — all at rank of assistant commissioner — have been promoted by the authority, following an open competition.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan moved to clarify the situation, saying there may be an opportunity for the new commissioner to bring with him “a very small number of support staff”, but he said Mr Harris would work with “Garda management, as a team”.

Separately, a report on the competition for the commissioner’s job reveals that of the 29 candidates shortlisted, 26 were male and three were female, with none of the women from Ireland.

The CSO report is for the full year to quarter one (January to March) of 2018, compared to the same period the previous year.

The agency resumed publication of crime data last March after a nine-month absence, because of serious concerns over Garda statistics. The CSO figures are published “under reservation”, meaning that, while it was the “best available” data, they had concerns over its quality.

Gardaí are continuing a major review of homicide data and investigations for the Policing Authority.

The CSO report to year-ending Q1 2018 shows increases in 13 crime categories, compared to year-ending Q1 2017, including:

  • Sexual offences, which were up 15% to 3,026;
  • Assaults, threats of murder, harassment, which were up 13.5% to 19,137;
  • Kidnappings, up 16% to 130;
  • Robbery, extortion and hijacking, up 16%, to 2,318;
  • Fraud offences, up 16% to 6,036;
  • Weapons and explosive offences, up 12% to 2,365.

There was an 8% rise in the largest crime category, theft, to 69,638 offences, with burglaries up 1% to 18,576.

The statistics appear to accelerate the trend in 2017, which saw a rise in all but one of the major crime groups compared to 2016.

Homicide is the only category that showed a fall, down 17% to 72.

Mr Flanagan welcomed the homicide reduction and said it reflected the work of gardaí in combating organised crime.

He said the Government took the sharp rise in sexual offences “very seriously” and said he was also disappointed in increases in other crime categories.

He also responded to comments made by a survivor of the Miami Showband massacre in Co Down in 1975, regarding the appointment of Mr Harris.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Stephen Travers said the appointment was a “hammer blow” to victims of collusion between British security forces and loyalist terrorists and he likened it to “putting the fox in charge of the hen house”.

Mr Flanagan said he “rejected” criticisms of Mr Harris’s appointment, saying he was a man of “huge experience and expertise”.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said Mr Harris had “a wealth of experience” and that the organisation needed “stable leadership”, as it faces significant change.

The Policing Commission reports in September, when Mr Harris takes over.


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