Belfast Telegraph

Computer errors wrongly recorded killings as assaults, reveal Garda chiefs

Garda top brass have said that "two or three" killings from 2013 to 2015 were wrongly recorded as assaults.

The miss-classifications were confirmed at a Policing Authority hearing where officers insisted the error on the internal Pulse computer system had no bearing on the criminal inquiries into the deaths or prosecutions.

Deputy Commissioner John Twomey told the watchdog: "There was a full and proper investigation done in each and every one of these cases.

"For families or anyone else affected by these it's critically important that the message is clear."

The mistakes were discovered during a review of 41 homicides and domestic incidents.

They could have involved mu rder, manslaughter, dangerous driving causing death or assaults that later resulted in death but the Authority was not given any specifics on the cases in public.

The head of the Garda's analysis service Gurchand Singh told the Authority that he could recall "two or three" homicide cases "quite clearly" which were marked as assaults causing harm.

Mr Singh and his team analysed homicide cases and domestic incidents on the Pulse system and records from the State Pathologist's office after a chief superintendent made a query about murders in the home, the Authority was told.

The individual cases were checked immediately, including consultation with the officers and detectives involved in the original investigations.

They were asked for their explanations for the initial classifications and any subsequent changes, the Authority was told, and the matters were "fully explained" and some "general and technical" changes are being made to the Pulse system..

In occasionally sparky exchanges with Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan, her senior colleagues and Josephine Feehily, chair of the Authority, revealed some of the information on the internal inquiry was only sent to watchdog in at 8.30pm on the eve of the hearing.

"We received much of the material which you had offered to us far too late to give it proper consideration," she said.

"There can be no doubt that this matter was going to be raised with you."

Elsewhere, in the lengthy hearing, the Authority was told that h alf of the motorists who have been offered an appeal for wrongful speeding convictions have said they want to take advice first.

Attempts have so far been made by the Garda to send letters to about 10,000 of the 14,700 drivers who were incorrectly prosecuted in court.

About 1,500 of the 3,000 affected motorists who replied to the offer of an appeal have told Garda management they are considering their response.

Another 1,500 letters were returned to Garda headquarters undelivered with further efforts underway to contact the drivers in person.

Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn told the hearing in Dublin Castle: " This is not going to be fixed quickly."

The issue is one of two major road traffic policing scandals to dog the force in recent months where almost 150,000 motorists were taken to the courts after either paying a fine for a fixed charge notice and being prosecuted regardless or because they were not given a chance to pay the penalty in the first instance.

The other controversy involved the gross exaggeration of roadside breath testing of drivers by gardai.

On that issue the Authority was told there is still no explanation for one million bogus tests recorded by the Garda from 2011 to 2016.

The Authority was also told that less than half of summonses for speeding offences are served on the suspect driver.

Ms Feehily also hit out at Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan's call for more support for hiring more staff.

"The Government has indicated there is capacity in the budget for 500 additional civilian professionals. We're waiting for the business cases," she told the Garda chief.

"We haven't received a pitch from you for the resources for the analysis service. I'm sorry, but, ask us.

"If you need analysts, send us in a business case."

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph