Garda sex crimes unit can’t take on new cases

A specialist Garda unit investigating sex crimes is not expected to be able to take on new cases until at least next March because it still is not properly staffed.

Garda sex crimes unit can’t take on new cases

A specialist Garda unit investigating sex crimes is not expected to be able to take on new cases until at least next March because it still is not properly staffed.

The Protective Services Unit for the Cork City Garda Division had to close investigations into new cases in November 2017 because it wasn’t adequately resourced with personnel. Despite extra staff being deployed to it, the unit is still short of people and only resourced to deal with investigating a backlog of cases.

The unit deals with sexual crime investigation, online child exploitation, child protection, domestic abuse, human trafficking, organised prostitution, and sex-offender management.

The Garda Press Office told the Irish Examiner that the strength of the unit at present is one inspector, two detective sergeants, and 11 detectives. However, it said three of the personnel are on maternity leave.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has said that a similar unit operating in the Dublin Metropolitan Region has almost the same population in its catchment area as Cork City and a similar caseload.

However, the Dublin Metropolitan Region East’s unit is staffed by four detective sergeants and 20 detective gardaí.

The Garda Press Office said there is a proposal to increase personnel numbers in the Cork City Garda Division’s unit on a permanent basis through a local recruitment drive. In a statement, it said that this was expected to be completed “by the end of the first quarter of 2020”.

The Garda Press Office was asked by the Irish Examiner if personnel could be drafted from other divisions to fill the vacancies.

It did not comment on this specifically, although GRA sources believe that the term ‘local’ in the recruitment drive means that any successful applicant will come from frontline policing units already stationed in the Cork City division.

After the Protective Services Unit made the decision not to take on investigations of newly reported cases, these were given to ordinary detectives who do not have the specialist training which unit members have.

When that decision was made, the unit had an average workload of 39, often complex, cases per garda.

The GRA has said while it is important that the unit is properly manned, it is concerned that backfilling it from regular units will deplete the number of gardaí on the beat in the city and its suburbs. The GRA estimates it is short 125 frontline gardaí already and is not getting its fair share of new recruits from the Garda Training College in Templemore.

Concerns have also been raised about frontline gardaí being taken off the beat in West Cork to man a new Protective Services Unit planned for that region. That will be based in Dunmanway and is expected to start investigations early next year.

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