The Central Statistics Office resumed publication of Garda crime figures yesterday, the first time in nine months, but said the figures carried a heavy health warning on their reliability.
As well as publishing updated homicide data, the CSO published recent figures, which show as 17% jump in sexual offences, including a 28% rise in rapes — increases described as shocking by Rape Crisis Network Ireland.
The 2017 figures also indicate increases in 12 of the 13 crime categories, with the sharpest rises in recorded assaults, frauds and weapons, but with a sharp drop in homicides on 2016 data.
The CSO conducted a detailed review of homicide figures going back to 2003, following an internal Garda review over a three-year period that identified 12 cases that should be upgraded to homicide and separate issues the CSO had also identified.
They said yesterday they were publishing the homicide data and the more recent crime figures “under reservation”: meaning they continued to have concerns over the quality of the underlying data.
They were taking this action in the public interest, given the void in statistics for nine months, and said the data was the best available figures.
The homicide review showed there were 234 additional homicides between 2003 and 2016 than had been previously recorded which is an increase of 18%.
It ranged from nine additional homicides in a year to up to 25 additional homicides which indicates an average of 17 more per year.
There were 196 more dangerous driving leading to death cases, a rise of 39%.
This category accounted for 84% of all the additional homicides, while 41 additional homicides were in the category of manslaughter.
The review showed there were three fewer murders than previously recorded.
The CSO said the higher figures were due to a combination of factors: the Garda review of suspicious deaths; homicides being incorrectly flagged as a secondary crime where multiple crimes occurred; an offence of dangerous driving not being reclassified as dangerous driving causing death where that occurred; only a single fatality being recorded where multiple fatalities occurred and misclassifications within homicide.
An ongoing review of Garda homicide classifications is being conducted by the Garda Working Group, in conjunction with the Policing Authority. This could result in further updates to the figures, the CSO said.
The CSO also published crime data for 2017 and have updated all crime figures back to 2013. These figures, also published under reservation, show:
n A 17% jump in sexual offences (from 2,520 to 2,945), including a 28% increase in rape and a 56% rise in sexual offences against a mentally impaired person.
n A 13% increase in the assault category (from 16,640 to 18,803), including a 10% rise in assault causing harm and a 26% jump in murder threats.
n An 8% rise in kidnappings, a 4.5% rise in robberies and a 3% increase in burglaries, including a 6% jump in aggravated burglaries.
n A 7% increase in thefts and a 23% jump in fraud offences.
n A 5% rise in drug offences and an 11% jump in weapons offences, including a 3.5% rise in possession of guns and a 10% rise in possession of offensive weapons, including knives.
n A 5% increase in criminal damage and a 7% rise in public order offences.
Regarding the figures stretching back to 2013, it shows a massive jump in recorded sexual offences, from 1,904 in 2013 to 2,945 in 2017, with a substantial rise in assaults, from 14,365 to 18,803. Rape Crisis Network Ireland executive director Cliona Saidlear said the 28% increase in rape offences in 2017 was shocking.
“These are very significant increases,” she said.
“Rape Crisis Network Ireland recognise the CSO is releasing these figures ‘under reservation’.
“This is a compromise between having the continued unacceptable absence of all statistics and releasing some that have not yet reached an acceptable standard but which give us a good indication of what those numbers are.
“The large changes in reporting numbers in sexual offences from 2016–2017 tell us why this release, even if under reservation, is so important.”
Deputy Garda commissioner John Twomey said while more analysis would be required, the belief of the organisation was that the rise in sexual assaults was “due to increased reporting”.
In relation to the updated crime statistics, he said: “The publication of the crime statistics is a step in the right direction, but we know we need to do a lot more in this area.
“We will be working closely with the CSO on an improvement plan so that we are satisfied that our data properly supports operational policing and the CSO can remove the ‘under reservation’ designation.”