'regrettable' | 

Garda Commissioner apologises to victims of domestic abuse whose 999 calls were not responded to

An investigation found that 3,120 calls reporting domestic violence were not followed up on by gardaí
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Brian Lawless/PA)

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Brian Lawless/PA)

Robin Schiller

The Garda Commissioner has publicly apologised to victims of domestic violence whose emergency calls were not properly responded to.

An internal inquiry is underway into how thousands of 999 calls were cancelled by gardaí across the country over a 22-month period.

The investigation, led by Assistant Commissioner Barry O’Brien, has found that 3,120 calls reporting domestic violence were not followed up on by gardaí.

So far the inquiry has established that more than half of these were either cancelled correctly, in instances where there were duplicate incidents, or were cancelled without impacting on a victim.

However, around 1,400 cancelled calls are still being reviewed over concerns the failure to respond by gardaí may have directly affected the complainant.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has this afternoon apologised to the victims at a public meeting of the Policing Authority to brief them on the issue.

He said that, while he could not yet give definitive figures as the review is ongoing, there were “regrettably” instances where gardaí did not provide adequate services to victims of domestic violence.

“On behalf of An Garda Síochána I want to apologise to those victims. They are among the most vulnerable people in society and when some victims of domestic abuse called for our assistance they did not always receive the professional service we aim to deliver and victims are entitled to expect,” Mr Harris said.

He added that they are currently in the process of contacting victims of domestic abuse who may have been impacted, and will take "whatever action is required in terms of supports, prosecutions or referrals to Tusla and other support agencies".

It’s understood that over 300 of these victims have so far been contacted by gardaí in relation to the issue.

In some cases there may be multiple victims related to a single incident, such as where there is an allegation domestic abuse in a family setting involving children.

Mr Harris told the meeting that the cancellations were caused by technological and procedural failures as well as “individuals not adhering to An Garda Síochána policies and procedures”.

The Garda Commissioner also said he wanted to assure abuse victims that gardaí are there for them, with highly trained detectives both locally and nationally.

The Policing Authority had previously expressed its “deep dissatisfaction and significant concern” with how it was informed of the issue.

There was particular concern that the extent of domestic violence incidents involved in cancelled calls was not brought to the Authority’s attention until April, even though the issue was first discovered six months earlier.

The Garda review has found that 202,931 emergency calls (14pc of all calls) were cancelled between January 2019 and October 2020.

This rate has since dropped to 6pc between last November and April after new measures were introduced.

In some cases calls are validly closed early due to duplications, at the request of another emergency service, or false alarms involving security monitoring companies.

Gardaí say an invalid cancellation is where this is requested by the responding garda or a victim of domestic violence caller, as well as where there is insufficient consideration for the closure type.

The issue was first discovered last October during an internal review of the Computer Aid Dispatch (CAD) system, used to log 999 calls to assist and prioritise the policing response to them.

There are currently four separate regional dispatch recording systems, with plans to update the CAD system next year.

Senior managers became concerned about the large amount of anecdotal evidence of cancelled calls and carried out a review.

Gardaí are also examining the profiles of victims whose calls were cancelled to determine if this was a factor.

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