Garda crime detection rate 10% lower than claimed, statistics agency warns
Almost a fifth of all crime reported to the Garda is still not recorded on its own system, official analysis has found.
And the force's success rate in solving crimes is probably 10% lower than actually claimed, a State agency has warned.
Despite widely-publicised concerns being flagged several years ago on reported crime figures, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) has again cast doubt over official numbers.
The latest caution was sounded as figures were released claiming the number of burglaries had plunged 26%, thefts were down 12% and sexual offences were up 13% in the year to June.
But the CSO said the country could not have "full confidence" in the figures until outstanding issues with how the force recorded crime were resolved.
Tim Linehan, of the CSO, said the scale of crime still not being recorded on the official Garda database Pulse had only fallen "very slightly" over the last year.
"Around 17% of crime reported to An Garda Siochana in 2015 was not recorded on Pulse," he said.
Last year, it was reported that 20% - or one in five - of all reported crimes never made it onto the system.
In a follow-up inquiry into last year's official records, the State agency again portrayed confusion and huge differences in how crimes were recorded in Garda stations across the country.
Some stations used technology and paper, some used only one or the other.
The CSO said where stations did not keep matching paper records it was "ultimately impossible to measure" how much crime was not being properly recorded.
Doubts were further cast on the classification of around 5% of major crimes.
Some 3% of crimes - including burglaries and thefts - were found to be recorded in the wrong category. Another 2% of records did not have enough information to tell whether or not they were correctly classified.
The CSO said 18% of crimes marked as detected - or solved - had no charge or summons sheet attached to prove it.
Removing these would reduce the Garda's overall claimed crime detection rate by 10%, it said.
"The CSO is continuing to work with An Garda Siochana to improve the reliability of the data and will continue this analysis at regular intervals to monitor data quality," Mr Linehan said.
Three years ago, former Garda chief Martin Callinan dismissed as "simply not true" allegations by the Garda Representative Association (GRA) that some crimes were not being recorded while official figures were easily massaged.
A year later,the CSO launched an investigation after the Garda Inspectorate exposed massive errors on the Pulse system, including poor classification of incidents and under-reporting, throwing doubt over the country's true crime rates.
Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said there has been significant progress on inadequate recording of crime but more needs to be done.
"I welcome the fact that the CSO conclude that the estimated impact of these issues on recorded crime is substantially less than was the case for the first review," she said.
"I am determined that a strong focus remain on the need for improvements in this area."
Ms Fitzgerald said i t will take time for the full effect of the upgrading Garda systems to be reflected in the statistics.
And she claimed: "The need for improvements in this area should not detract from the comparative assessment of statistics which shows a real and significant reduction under a number of headings."
Sinn Fein justice spokesman Jonathan O'Brien called on Garda management to explain why crime is being under-recorded.
"It important that An Garda Siochana outlines the reasons for these issues so that the public can have confidence in the published crime figures. It is also important because these figures will have an influence when it comes to the allocation of resources," he said.
"We will be calling on the Minister for Justice to request that Garda Siochana address this matter as soon as possible."
In a statement, the Garda said it accepted more work had to be done on recording crime.
"Data quality is an issue for all police services and we are determined to ensure we have the highest quality data," the force said.
"We have made some progress in this area, but we recognise we have more work to do."
The Garda said many issues around the recording of crime would be addressed by investment in technology that will automate the recording of crime and more civilian staff in the Garda Information Services Centre and the appointment of a data quality manager.