Inspectorate criticises child-sex investigations

The Policing Authority is to question acting garda commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin and his senior team about the Garda Inspectorate report on child-abuse investigations.

This will occur at their next public meeting, in April, which will address the wider issue of children and policing, and the inspectorate’s report will now form part of that. It will be a fresh test for the acting commissioner, who, along with his senior management, was criticised at the public meeting this month, for supplying a key report to the authority, the night before, even though it was to be discussed.

That report — on the policing of the Jobstown anti-water charge protest — had been completed the previous October. The 256-page Garda Inspectorate report, published on Tuesday, highlighted a range of issues that it had concerns about.

These include:

  • “Unacceptable delays” in the examination of digital devices seized in child abuse material (CAM) cases, with a quarter of cases outstanding and a third of those at least four years old.
  • 105 child sexual cases not “dealt with appropriately” and for which an immediate garda review has been urged;
  • Technology that would allow gardaí to track, in real time, computers that were accessing CAM was not being used, because the force did not have the capacity to deal with the amount of intelligence it would produce;
  • That inexperienced gardaí — some “just out of Templemore” — continue to be involved in investigating child-rape cases. The inspectorate described this as a “significant organisational risk”;
  • The stopping of joint interviews of child victims by specialist gardaí and social workers is “unacceptable” — just 16 social workers are available, and there are just six or seven training places in the next 12 months;
  • That 22% of child sex abuse incidents were only created on the Garda Pulse system more than a month after a complaint — and there is often a failure to record a suspect.

The inspectorate praised the setting up by the Garda Síochána of four divisional Protective Service Bureau units and plans for four more this year, but said the units should be set up in all 28 divisions by close of 2018.

In response, garda sources told the Irish Examiner they are examining the 105 child-abuse cases to ensure they have been investigated properly and that they have set up a system to ensure all cases are tracked and monitored. They hope to clear backlogs in the examination of computers in child-abuse cases by early 2019. They also contradicted the inspectorate’s findings that they are not using technology to identify computers in real time. A spokeswoman for the Policing Authority said the inspectorate’s report will be part of the April meeting.


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