allegations | 

Gardaí routinely cancelled 999 emergency calls when changing shifts, whistleblower claims

A third garda whistleblower has come forward making serious allegations of misconduct

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Garda Commissioner Drew Harris© PA

Ali BrackenSunday Independent

A third garda whistleblower has come forward making serious allegations of misconduct in connection with the force’s 999 cancelled calls controversy.

The protected disclosure, understood to have been lodged with the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc), is not believed to have formed part of a major investigation into the controversy by the Policing Authority.

When contacted by this newspaper, the Policing Authority confirmed a major report into the cancelled calls has now been completed by Derek Penman, a former assistant chief constable of Police Scotland. It will be discussed next Thursday in a meeting with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, who will be questioned over its findings.

Two whistleblowers came forward last year and made protected disclosures in relation to how gardaí were cancelling calls at Garda Command and Control centres.

It is understood a third Garda whistleblower lodged a complaint in recent weeks. In the complaint, the anonymous officer claimed gardaí in Command and Control routinely cancelled “groups of calls” when changing shifts.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris© PA

The officer also alleged that a senior officer, who is named in the protected disclosure, was later involved in “declassifying” several categories of calls once the internal investigation into the matter began in a bid to reduce the number of 999 calls the force is accused of cancelling.

The senior officer was investigated over this matter. It is understood that this third protected disclosure “backs up” what has already been outlined by the two previous whistleblowers. When contacted, Garda Headquarters told this newspaper: “An Garda Siochána is precluded by law from commenting on whether garda personnel have or have not made a protected disclosure to a third-party.” Gsoc was also contacted for comment.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Independent has learned new details about the nature of some of the cancelled calls. One concerns a distressed call from a Traveller woman, who was being badly beaten by a man. Her caravan was later set alight. Another unattended call concerned a disabled youth being set upon and beaten by a gang of young men.

The Policing Authority has essentially completed its investigation into the controversy and the third whistleblower’s claims are not believed to have formed part of the probe. Mr Penman, a former assistant chief constable of Police Scotland, was appointed last July by the Policing Authority to carry out a full independent report into the matter.

He was not initially permitted to listen to the cancelled calls, mainly because of GDPR issues. However this matter was later resolved after gardai and the Policing Authority sough joint legal advice. He was then given a “green light” to listen to a sample of the cancelled calls.

“It is expected that Mr Penman’s final report will be considered by the Authority at its meeting on September 29 and the matter will be discussed in public with the Garda Commissioner at that meeting,” a spokesman for the Authority said when contacted.

Sources familiar with the investigation expressed “concerns” that Mr Penman may not have had the opportunity to examine all the relevant material linked to the controversy.

“Next Thursday’s meeting will be very telling in terms of what is revealed, or isn’t revealed,” a well-placed source said.

A separate source insisted the independent process has been “transparent”.

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