Bid to get Garda homicide figures thwarted

The Garda’s top statistician twice sought, in vain, to get access to a Garda report for the Policing Authority on homicide figures — and was only granted sight of it a week-and-a-half after a public meeting with the authority.

Bid to get Garda homicide figures thwarted

Gurchand Singh, head of the Garda Analysis Service, said the report was the work of an internal review he recommended be set up to examine 41 homicide cases and which comprised both gardaí and civilian analysts.

He told the Oireachtas Justice Committee his two analysts had been “very frustrated” on that review group and both they and himself had expected to see, and sign off on, any report being submitted to the authority before a public meeting on April 27, 2017.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said he was concerned it was a “deliberate attempt” to exclude analysts and push through the report and that, in a worst-case scenario, represented a bid by Garda HQ to “hoodwink” the authority.

Sinn Féin justice spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said it was “almost impossible” to understand Mr Singh had not been granted sight of the report.

Controversies surrounding the classification and investigation of 41 homicide cases gathered apace this month when the authority expressed frustration at the Garda response and requested a peer review to ensure all cases were investigated in line with legal requirements. It is being led by experienced detective Chief Supt Brian Sutton.

Separately, two Garda civilians have sent correspondence to the Justice Committee alleging that some homicides were not classified, and investigated, properly.

Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace identified the positions and gender of those two people at the committee, describing them as “protected disclosers”, although committee chair Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin disputed the description.

Acting Garda Commissioner Dónall O’Cualáin could not appear before the committee yesterday as he was attending the funeral of Detective Superintendent Colm Fox who died tragically last weekend.

Deputy O’Caoláin led tributes to the officer. Mr Singh said his unit had done “great work” with Det Supt Fox and wished he could have attended the funeral.

Assistant Commissioner Mick Finn told the committee that, in July 2016, the Garda National Protective Services Bureau asked the GAS to examine homicides where domestic abuse may have been a motive.

The GAS studied State Pathologist’s reports for 2013-2015 and compared them to Pulse records, resulting in 41 cases warranting further examination.

Mr Singh said that in November 2016 he asked Garda management for a review, saying the “missing piece” was the investigation files. This was set up in January 2017, comprising gardaí and analysts. Mr Singh that prior to the April meeting he twice sought its report, which neither his analysts or he saw, but never got it.

Asst Commissioner Finn said it was an “error” and that Mr Singh should have seen it.

After the meeting, Mr Singh said he wrote to Garda chiefs expressing his concern and again seeking the report, which he got a week-and-a-half later. He was not happy when he saw it and told bosses more work needed to be done.

This resulted in a September report to the authority which GAS signed off on. It said 12 of the 41 cases required reclassification.

Mr Finn said while classification was an issue all the cases had been investigated.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said the organisation was in a ‘maelstrom’ and he asked Mr Singh if there was a “them-and-us” attitude between senior gardaí and civilians.

Mr Singh said: “Like any large organisation, I don’t think An Garda Síochána is a coherent whole. Gardaí argue with each other, civilians argue with each other and civilians and gardaí argue with each other.”

Mr Singh said his unit had an excellent working relationship with "operational officers".

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