Gardaí “failed” a victim of child abuse by not carrying out a proper investigation into their abuse, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said.
Mr Harris was responding to the Garda Siochána Ombudsman Commission's (Gsoc) annual report which said a serving garda did not “properly investigate” abuse reported to it by another police force.
“I entirely accept that shouldn’t have happened," said Mr Harris. "That family deserved a far better response, so in no way am I saying that it was good enough, I’m not even remotely suggesting that.
“We have a systems approach but also then there is an individual failure that has been addressed as well. We don’t accept that it was good enough ourselves, and we have addressed that.
“Undoubtedly there’s been an individual failure, we’ll learn from that and see what systems changes we need to make.”
Today’s Gsoc report, which noted there was an increase in admissible complaints against the force, said a Garda member was found in breach of discipline for failure to properly investigate allegations of childhood sexual abuse and failure to communicate with the victim on the progress of the investigation.
The victim reported allegations to Greater Manchester Police (GMP). As the complaint was in relation to incidents which occurred in Ireland, the GMP referred the matter to An Garda Síochána.
It became apparent, according to Gsoc, that after GMP had sent a comprehensive report to the Gardaí there was “a protracted period where very little action was taken” to conduct an investigation or to deal with the suspected offender.
Gsoc said this had the effect of “leaving him to remain a risk to children”.
A Gsoc investigator was appointed to undertake a disciplinary investigation under section 95 of the Act into a complaint about the matter. Gsoc prepared a report, and the Garda member concerned was found to be in breach of the Garda Discipline Regulations for neglect of duty on two counts and sanctioned accordingly.
The Gsoc Annual Report shows the number of criminal investigations into conduct by gardaí increasing to 557 in 2021 from 422 in 2017.
The report also shows that referrals from gardaí to Gsoc of matters where the conduct of a serving garda may have resulted in death or serious harm more than doubled — from 24 in 2017 to 59 last year.
In addition, although between 32% and 39% of all complaints are deemed inadmissible and not investigated, the number of admissible complaints has increased from a low of 1,158 in 2019 to 1,335 in 2021.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee said she is not “overly concerned” with the figures.
She said: “I think we have to look at the fact that the numbers are increasing and certainly ask the questions why. I do think it's the fact that the resources are there.
“People are more aware of what Gsoc do. But if there's anything further that we need to investigate, then you know it's certainly something that we can look into.
“To me, what's important is that (Gsoc) has the resources to do their job and where recommendations are made, that they're taken on board.”