Women’s rights campaigners have expressed dismay after further discrepancies were uncovered in the recording of crime statistics — this time involving sexual offences.
It has emerged that the number of sex crimes recorded by gardaí annually between 2003 and 2016 was overstated in 12 out of the 14 years examined. In 2003, the figure reported was 26% higher than the reality.
That does not necessarily mean there were fewer crimes committed, however. Rape crisis workers say it more likely means an inflated impression has been given of the number of sexual offences that victims actually report.
The under-reporting of sexual offences has been a long-running concern, with those working in the field estimating that only one in 10 rapes are reported to gardaí.
The latest discrepancies follow the discovery of serious under-recording of homicides and failures to properly capture incidents of domestic violence.
Orla O’Connor, director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI), said problems with the collection and analysis of data around domestic and sexual violence amounted to a crisis.
“Our criminal justice system is failing to support women, and failing to hold perpetrators to account, because we do not collect or analyse data in an effective manner,” she said.
“We urgently need our state services— An Garda Síochána, Tusla, the HSE, the courts services, and the CSO — to come together to record data accurately, and importantly to share the data and subsequent analysis. Our current system is archaic and not fit for purpose.”
The discrepancies were discovered by the Central Statistics Office which has recently completed a review of all crime statistics from 2003 and 2016.
Crime and justice statistician Sam Scriven stressed that the CSO had not reviewed individual cases and reclassified them but had corrected them where there was duplication or where changes should have been made as an investigation progressed.
“Over time, as an investigation goes on, new evidence may come to light that affects how a crime or incident may be classified so there are valid reasons why datasets vary,” he said.
Mr Scriven pointed out that the discrepancies were much smaller in more recent years. However, he said there were ongoing concerns over the quality of data captured by gardaí and this was the reason the latest figures for 2017 were published last month with the warning that they were released ‘under reservation.”
The Garda press office said: “The publication of the crime statistics, how they are compiled and the designation of such statistics is a matter for the CSO.
“We are continuing to work to ensure the CSO can remove the “under reservation” designation from the crime statistics so that all stakeholders including An Garda Síochána has a comprehensive view of crimes levels across all categories.
“An Garda Síochána has a dedicated national section with highly trained professionals dedicated to the investigation of sexual crime. We have begun introducing such bureaus at a divisional level which will further enhance the investigation of sexual crime at a local level.”
However, Ms O’Connor said further improvements in data collection were needed so that relationships between perpetrators and victims and gender details were recorded.
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