Garda reforms to include cybercrime units and hotline to report child sex abuse

New cybercrime units, local teams to combat domestic violence and sexual assault, and a hotline to report child sex abuse are among a raft of reforms unveiled yesterday by the Garda Commissioner.

However, Nóirín O’Sullivan’s five-year modernisation and renewal programme hit trouble on the day of its launch, with a rejection by a Garda staff association to implement the plan due to a pay dispute.

The programme is in response to a series of critical external reports, particularly two mammoth investigations by the Garda Inspectorate in 2014 and 2015.

Ms O’Sullivan launched the 120-page document four days before attending a public meeting with the Policing Authority over the O’Higgins report and its fallout.

She told the Irish Examiner yesterday that the revelations and criticisms of recent weeks had challenged her assumptions “about myself and my leadership”.

The programme — backed by promised government investment of €200m over five years — outlines reforms to An Garda Síochána’s culture and structure, crime investigation, services for victims, and technology.

Specific changes include:

  • An expanded computer crime investigation unit, which will now tackle cybercrime as well as conduct computer forensics, with regional units also established — all by the end of 2017;
  • A dedicated, confidential, 24/7 freephone line for victims of child sexual abuse (current and historical) — to be launched this year;
  • Protective services units (investigating local domestic abuse and sexual crime) will be in place in “selected” areas, reporting to the National Protective Services Bureau — by the end of 2016;
  • New community policing teams in each area — no deadline — and community policing fora for each district, by end 2017.

In relation to the investigation of crime, a national crime co-ordination committee under deputy commissioner of operations is being set up along with a new assistant commissioner for special crime operations.

The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation is being replaced by an Economic Crime Unit, which will have the “skilled staff to ‘follow the money’ ”. The Garda Inspectorate said the bureau had no forensic accountants.

Regional crime management teams are also being established, along with a co-ordination and tasking unit, which, in turn, will work under the National Criminal Intelligence Unit.

New support structures include the nationwide expansion of Computer Aided Dispatch systems, to deal with 999 calls, but this won’t be done until end 2019.

There will also be new investigations management and property and exhibits management systems.

Counter-terrorism strategies “will be strengthened”, though the report is short on details. Assistant commissioner John O’Mahoney said Counter-Terrorism International, which currently has 20 staff, would be increased in size.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said its members will not implement the plan until its pay dispute is resolved.


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