Garda Commissioner apologises to domestic abuse victims over cancelled 999 calls

ireland
Garda Commissioner Apologises To Domestic Abuse Victims Over Cancelled 999 Calls
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, © PA Archive/PA Images
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By James Ward, PA

Gardaí did not provide the required standard of service to victims of domestic abuse, Commissioner Drew Harris has told a meeting of the Policing Authority.

It follows an internal inquiry by an assistant commissioner into failures by gardaí to properly respond to 999 emergency calls in 2019 and 2020.

The ongoing inquiry has focused on domestic abuse calls, with 3,120 cases identified where such calls had a final status of “cancelled”.

Of that figure, 10 per cent of cases — 312 — who may have been affected have been contacted by gardaí.

The inquiry has yet to identify any victim who experienced adverse outcomes as a result of their 999 call not being properly responded to.

The ongoing inquiry has focused on domestic abuse calls (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Mr Harris said: “Regrettably, in some instances it appears An Garda Siochana did not provide the standard of service to victims of domestic abuse that is required.

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“On behalf of An Garda Siochana 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.”

He said victims of domestic abuse “were not provided with the full level of support” set out in Garda policies.

The process of contacting victims is ongoing, and Mr Harris said they will take “whatever actions necessary” in terms of support, prosecutions and referrals to relevant services.

Mr Harris said the issue was caused by “technological and procedural failings, as well as individuals not adhering to An Garda Siochana policies and procedures”.

He said that since the issue was discovered “the measures that have been put in place have significantly reduced the occurrences and I am confident that it can’t happen again.”

When all victims affected have been contacted and their situation assessed, gardaí will make the details known to the minister for justice and the Policing Authority, Mr Harris said.

A Garda spokesman said they could not “make any assumptions” when asked if they expected the inquiry would eventually identify cases where victims had suffered adverse outcomes as a result of their 999 call not being properly responded to.

“Every case in relation to a victim is on a case-by-case basis” they said.

“A lot of what we’re doing is examining the history of domestic abuse within familial surroundings and examining instances since those calls came into control, and examining what had happened prior to those calls.

“So I think it’s very, very important not to make assumptions in this area at all.”

While the internal inquiry has focused on the impact on victims of domestic violence, 999 calls in a range of other areas were also cancelled.

A spokesman said: “We’re currently focusing on missing person and DVSA (domestic violence, sexual assault), because first of all you’re dealing with vulnerable victims in the very nature of those calls.

“But they also present a present and future risk by the nature of those calls, that’s the focus now.

“The review is ongoing, we’re not going to close down if there is something we need to review further, in respect of calls.”

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In total the review identified 1,445,161 incidents logged on the Garda’s CAD (computer aided dispatch) system, between January 1st, 2019 and November 31st, 2020.

The system has been in place since the 1980s, and is due to be replaced next year, with one Garda source describing it as “like a car from the early 20th century”.

 

“It’s reliable, it will get you from A to B, but there’s almost no extra protections” the source said.

Of these, 202,931 incidents, or 14 per cent of calls, were closed, with a description of “cancelled” on the system.

Many of these are believed to have been duplicate incidents, for example when several callers alert gardai to an ongoing incident.

Some 52,161 incidents of DVSA were recorded, of which 3,120 were cancelled.

The initial review found that 35 per cent, or 1,092, were valid cancellations, because they were duplicates, with the remaining 65 per cent, or 2028 incidents, considered invalid.

To date, victims in 10 per cent of the 3,120 incidents have been contacted by gardaí to assess any impact that may have occurred, with no adverse outcomes yet identified.

Mr Harris said: “Our review has been victim-centred and our primary concern is to establish that all safeguarding measures have been put in place for victims of crime, particularly vulnerable victims.

“I want to assure victims of domestic abuse that An Garda Siochana is here for you and please report to us if you are a victim of domestic abuse.”

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