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A broken force

JUSTICE Minister Frances Fitzgerald has described the damning Garda Inspectorate report as a "line in the sand moment" for policing in Ireland.

The highly critical report found systematic failings in how gardai investigate and record serious crimes including murder and rape.

It was also critical of how crimes were classified by gardai and suggested the true crime rate in the country could be far higher than is actually reported.

However, Minister Fitzgerald denied gardai were "massaging" statistics and insisted a lack of up-to-date technology was the main issue faced by the force.

"This is a line in the sand moment in relation to policing in Ireland and reform," she said.

CRIMINALS

"I don't think there has been recent efforts to change the figures," she added.

"The men and women of An Garda Siochana are doing their best but the systems are letting them down."

Ms Fitzgerald also revealed that a new Garda Commissioner will be appointed in early December. The force has not had a Garda Commissioner since Martin Callinan's resignation earlier this year with, Noirin O'Sullivan installed as acting Commissioner since March.

The minister also revealed she asked Commissioner O'Sullivan for an immediate report on claims in the inspectorate's report that 32,000 potential criminals did not have their finger prints taken.

Published yesterday, the Garda Inspectorate's report found a litany failings in the force, raising questions about the reclassification of 8.5pc of all crimes recorded on the Garda's PULSE computer system over the 17 months to May 2012.

Of the 2,372 crimes reclassified, 83pc were moved into a less serious category, the report found.

And in the Inspectorate's view, 71pc had been incorrectly reclassified.

The downgrading of incidents to a lesser crime category took place most with burglaries, robbery and assault causing harm.

Other findings include:

l Inconsistencies in claiming detections.

l A lack of oversight in the decision-making process.

l Inexperienced gardai investigating serious crimes.

l Inconsistent approach to updating victims of crime.

l Negative attitude to investigating domestic abuse

Garda Inspectorate chief inspector Bob Olson said he was surprised by the number of issues raised in his report

"A lot of work needs to be done here," he said.

"Throughout the country, we found committed and dedicated people and many elements of good practice.

PROBLEMS

"But we also found that those elements of good practice are not being shared or employed across the country.

"In any organisation of this size, you must ensure that good practice is consistently observed. That requires strong leadership, strong supervision and strong governance," Mr Olson added.

Commissioner O'Sullivan welcomed the report and noted the challenges faced by gardai were not different to those faced by other police forces. She said gardai cannot solve all the problems raised in the report alone and would work with other agencies to introduce the recommendations. "We look forward to working in collaboration with the various working groups recommended by the report," she said.

hnews@herald.ie


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