Policing watchdog slams report delay

A Garda finding that their public order operation at the Jobstown water charge protest in November 2014 was a success was described as “an extraordinary conclusion” at the Policing Authority yesterday.

Policing watchdog slams report delay

The authority strongly criticised acting commissioner Dónall O’Cualáin over the fact that Garda HQ only gave them the report of their review into the incident at 6.30pm on Wednesday — despite the fact it had been completed last October.

Authority member Bob Collins suggested this was either a “tactic” of Garda management or displayed “some measure of disregard” by them or that it was another “uncanny coincide” in the late provision of reports.

Fellow member Maureen Lynott bluntly told the acting commissioner — who apologised, saying he wasn’t aware of the delay — this was “not to happen again”.

In a prolonged three-hour public meeting, the authority also dealt with the ongoing controversy surrounding Garda domestic homicide data, saying:

  • It remained concerned that errors in classification may have had a negative impact on the approach gardaí took in individual cases or on the quality of investigations;
  • That, in addition to the 12 deaths (out of 41) that were reclassified upwards to homicide last September in a Garda review, the authority had identified a further 16 cases that had been reclassified in some way;
  • Authority chair Josephine Feehily said the initial Garda report on the issue, presented to the authority last April, had been “so poorly executed” that it resulted in the outcry and likened the events to children’s film Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

The Garda review into the Jobstown event, in which Tánaiste Joan Burton and her assistant were held in their car for more than two hours during an anti-water charge protest, caused the Garda bosses most discomfort.

Bob Collins expressed “concern and unhappiness” at the delivery of the review report at 6.30pm on Wednesday, which they had not yet read, and relied on a three-page summary of the report they got in mid-December.

Mr O’Cualáin said it was not a tactic or a display of disregard, later saying that it “slipped between the cracks”. He said it was “simply not acceptable” and apologised, saying he was not aware of the delay.

Mr Collins said the report laid bare “very significant weaknesses” in the Garda’s preparedness and handling, including little or no strategic assessment of the “public disquiet” beforehand, including two specific incidents in the days preceding the event.

He said the report summary said the garda response lacked strategic direction and that various tactical options did not appear to have been considered.

He said communications from the command centre did not suggest any strategic direction of the escalating situation.

In relation to the garda investigation, he said the report identified little evidence of assessment at key stages and that not all investigation policies were followed.

Mr Collins said that the summary’s conclusion that despite all these issues that the operation was a “success” — because the Tánaiste and her colleague were extracted without physical injury — was “an extraordinary conclusion”.

Deputy Commissioner John Twomey said the body of the report described it as a “qualified success”, which he thought was probably accurate. Mr Collins pointed out that “qualified” was omitted from the summary.

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