Policing agency to defend homicide handling

Josephine Feehily

The chair of the independent Policing Authority will today strongly defend its decision not to reach out and speak to two civilian Garda analysts “attacked and belittled” by senior officers over incorrect homicide figures.

Josephine Feehily will say that the concerns expressed by the analysts — Lois West and Laura Galligan — were “already known to us before their contact”.

Ms Feehily will also argue that following her body’s intervention, 12 out of 41 cases highlighted have been upgraded to homicide by gardaí. In addition, she will tell the Oireachtas justice committee that a further 16 cases “had some change made to their classification, meaning that only 13 are unchanged”.

In powerful evidence two weeks ago, Ms West and Ms Galligan said they made repeated attempts to reach out to the Policing Authority over the pressure they came under to sign off on a report they knew to be deficient but were never spoken to.

While Ms Feehily will say the evidence given by the two women about their maltreatment “sounded deplorable and very concerning”, she is robustly defending the Policing Authority’s handling of the affair.

The authority has been the subject of much criticism since the women appeared.

In her written statement to the committee, before which she will appear today, Ms Feehily said “there was very little of substance about the review [their concerns] which we didn’t know”.

She will also strongly reject suggestions that the authority was misled by senior Garda officers during a meeting last April.

“Far from being misled, the authority rejected the document submitted by the Garda Siochana to our 27 April meeting in very strong terms,” she will tell committee members.

“We wrote to the commissioner to express significant concerns about its tone, content and accuracy.”

She said that, far from being ignored, the analysts were told by the authority in May that it was “live to all of their concerns and would be following up. And we did follow up,” she will say.

“That letter underlined further for the authority the professional tensions around this whole matter, which were already visible to us,” Ms Feehily will say.

One of the sharpest criticisms of the authority by opposition TDs was that it “ratted out” the two analysts to the very officers who they had been in conflict with.

Responding, Ms Feehily will say the names of the analysts and the fact and detail of their disquiet was “a matter of record and in no way confidential”.

“However, the content of the analysts’ direct communication with the authority was recognised as sometimes sensitive and was and is treated as confidential,” Ms Feehily will say. “They explicitly declined to allow later correspondence to be shared with Garda management and that was fully honoured.”

Ms Feehily will also tell the committee that despite their decision not to meet the two analysts yet, it is envisaged they will be met as part of a working group within the force.

“The authority intends to meet the working group, which includes Ms West and Ms Galligan, to ensure that it fully understands the authority’s concerns,” she will say.

The mistreatment of the two civilian analysts was called a “national scandal” by Labour TD Alan Kelly.

Garda senior management were also accused by several TDs of a “cover-up” after it emerged they dismissed and ignored concerns about how deaths had been classified.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said he was “concerned” by what he heard at the committee.

The analysts claimed they were “attacked” and “belittled” by senior Garda management after they sought to raise their concerns after 43 deaths between 2013 and 2015 were found to have been misclassified.

Ms West and Ms Galligan told the committee they were “belittled and treated poorly”, put under pressure to resile from their findings, and their “integrity was undermined and attacked”.

They said they were also put under “significant pressure” to sign off on a report about homicide misclassifications that they knew was “completely inaccurate”and “misleading” last May.

Analysis: 11

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