Child abuse cases most stressful, say gardaí

Dealing with child abuse cases, suicides and fatal road traffic accidents are the most stressful incidents for gardaí to deal with, according to a survey.

Middle-ranking officers also complain about being snowed under by mountains of paperwork and red tape.

A survey conducted by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors found that 40% of members did not consider the promotion system in the force to be fair.

Details of the survey of 821 members (a 39% response rate) were published on the final day of the annual conference of the AGSI yesterday.

The incidents causing most stress were:

* 50% said dealing with child victims of violence and abuse;

* 49% said dealing with suicides;

* 44% said attending serious or fatal road traffic accidents;

* 44% said the risk of being infected with hepatitis or HIV;

* 40% said policing a major event.

In their general work environment, sergeants and inspectors said bureaucracy was the biggest cause of stress (68%), and an over-reliance on paper-based systems (62%).

When asked about the top primary stress factors in their job, the gardaí referred to a lack of support from management, the ‘who you know’ promotion process, and workload.

The survey found that 40% of members said the promotion system was rarely or never fair and consistent.

Tim Galvin, survey co-author and member of the AGSI national executive, said they would be bringing the survey to Garda HR management.

“Facts and figures they have to listen to. You go with figures and they have to respond. They can’t ignore it,” said Mr Galvin.

He said a copy of the survey would also go the Garda commissioner and the justice minister.

“They need to see how people feel and show them how morale is at the moment in the organisation.”

He said the survey also illustrated how members identified management indecisiveness, incompetence and lack of support as causes of stress.

Mr Galvin said that only 12% of members, against whom a complaint had been made, felt that the process adopted by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission was fair.

He said the way members were treated by the watchdog was “utterly and absolutely scandalous”.

Also speaking at the conference, a sergeant involved in the Roscommon incest case said only two Garda units — the domestic violence and sexual assault unit and the computer crime investigation unit — had access to counselling sessions.

Sgt John Hynes said all members who are suffering from stress or depression as a result of dealing with traumatic incidents should have access to counsellors.

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