Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has revealed that, in light of the Sarah Everard murder case in London, he is setting up review of investigations where gardaí are accused of domestic or sexual violence to make sure they are investigated properly.
A British police oversight body is investigating reports that previous allegations of indecent exposure against Ms Everard's killer — London Met police officer Wayne Couzens — were not properly investigated by police at the time, meaning his behaviour was not checked before committing murder.
Couzens conducted a false arrest last March of the 33-year-old as she was walking home in order to get her into his car, before raping and murdering her.
The examination ordered by the commissioner involves:
- A review by specialist detectives of current cases involving allegations of domestic or sexual abuse by serving gardaí to ensure investigations into them were thorough and resulted in files to the DPP;
- After that initial examination, the review may extend to historical cases to see how those investigations were conducted;
- The review will inform in-service vetting policies which are currently being developed an area attracting attention in Britain following the Everard case.
Couzens was subject to three separate allegations of indecent exposure — two of them just weeks before he kidnapped, raped, and murdered Ms Everard.
Mr Harris said a “small team” under the Garda National Protective Services Bureau will conduct the review.
The bureau is the specialist squad charged with the investigation of sexual and domestic crimes.
The commissioner was speaking to the media yesterday at the annual conference of the Association of Garda Superintendents in Naas, Co Kildare.
Asked about the high profile cases in Ireland and Britain involving sexual assault and murder of women, he said: “Any sexual assault or serious assault on a woman is obviously a concern, but the case I presume you are referring to, Sarah Everard.
"In that case, we have watched carefully what the response of the London Met and UK policing is. There are lessons, I think, from their initial response we wish to build upon.
“So, we ourselves want to look at any investigations that are ongoing or that we have in terms of members of An Garda Síochána involved in allegations of either domestic abuse or sexual assault to make sure those are being properly conducted and are advancing in terms of reporting to the Director of Public Prosecutions.”
He added: “We want to be sure that we are providing a high-quality investigative service and are looking towards making sure our own organisation is in a position that it is protecting women and can have the confidence of women that is protecting them from violence.”
He said there were investigations regarding allegations involving domestic abuse and breach of orders, such as barring orders.
He said the same applied to allegations of sexual violence against gardaí.
Mr Harris said: “When we’ve done that, we’ll see what our next steps might be — that may be we begin to look back over a number of years at older investigations and see what the outcome of those were.”
He said there will be lessons for vetting policies: “We do have an in-service vetting policy being developed and what we learn from this will also inform that policy.
“Vetting policy is being developed and allegations which have been investigated and there’s been no prosecution, obviously that does have an impact in terms of where people serve after that,” he said.