At least 400 crimes not investigated due to 999 call cancellation

At least 400 crimes not investigated due to 999 call cancellation

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris: 'In the great majority of these calls, there were multiple members and staff who were engaged. It hasn’t proven to be a simple exercise to say those individuals look like outliers.' Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

At least 400 crimes went uninvestigated as a result of the mass cancellation of 999 calls by Garda personnel, the Garda Commissioner has said.

Drew Harris told the monthly meeting of the Policing Authority that of the incidents created on the Garda Pulse system to date, 13% related to crime.

“Extrapolating that figure out to 2,860 [the number of calls cancelled for ‘invalid reasons’ according to the Garda review], we’re talking about 400 incidents which will have to be investigated,” Mr Harris said, adding a large proportion of those crimes related to “minor assault”.

200,000 cancelled calls

The review, which covered some 200,000 cancelled calls between January 2019 and October 2020, still has 121 ‘priority one’ calls to consider before it can be completed, Mr Harris said, with a likely completion date of the end of August or the beginning of September. He said the investigation into the calls had been “painstaking but very thorough”.

Previously, it had been suggested there were "outliers" in the gardaí, meaning some officers could have cancelled calls more than others, and some calls had been cancelled following coordination within Garda WhatsApp groups.

Mr Harris said: “It isn’t as straightforward as it might have seemed. In the great majority of these calls, there were multiple members and staff who were engaged. It hasn’t proven to be a simple exercise to say those individuals look like outliers, there is cause and effect that you can easily identify."

In terms of the WhatsApp issue, he replied under questioning: “Chief superintendents were not able to bear that out, they weren’t seeing that, and that’s in the busiest divisions where such patterns of behaviour would be most likely to be apparent.”

Apologised to victims of domestic abuse

The commissioner had apologised to victims of domestic abuse, whose calls were the primary focus of the review, at the previous Policing Authority meeting, saying his force “did not provide the standard of service required”.

Chair of the Policing Authority Bob Collins said the cancelled calls “are still a very serious issue as far as the authority is concerned”.

He said that, notwithstanding the commissioner’s statement that the existence of outliers is in question, “the view that was expressed to us at the end of May and in early June clearly suggested that that was a known reality”.

“We would want a clearer sense of why the conviction that was so clear then is so less clear now,” Mr Collins said.

'Intense frustration'

Mr Collins had previously expressed his “intense frustration” at the authority’s difficulty in extracting information on the issue from the gardaí, but said “there has been an improvement” in the interim, though “getting precise figures is still difficult”.

“I’ve gone beyond the frustration phase, but the concern is still real in terms of the way which this has been dealt with,” he said.

He said he had made reference to previous scandals involving dubious homicide and breath test statistics during the public meeting “as they were areas where the persistence of the authority was a necessary ingredient… to make the point that that persistence hasn’t evaporated”.

Earlier, the authority had announced the appointment of former chief inspector of the constabulary in Scotland Derek Penman as an independent examiner of the Garda review of the cancelled calls, an appointment which Commissioner Harris said the gardaí “welcomed”.

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