Belfast Telegraph

Gardai failings extraordinarily serious, says police watchdog chief

A report revealed some 3,500 children were linked to 8,000 crimes that were reported but not investigated properly by gardai.

Police Authority chair Josephine Feehily at a press conference following the meeting at Dublin Castle (Niall Carson/PA)
Police Authority chair Josephine Feehily at a press conference following the meeting at Dublin Castle (Niall Carson/PA)

The chair of the Policing Authority has said failings by gardai to investigate almost 8,000 crimes properly is “extraordinarily serious”.

Josephine Feehily was commenting after a report revealed some 3,500 children were linked to the crimes that were reported but not investigated properly by gardai.

As part of the wide-scale examination of youth referrals, it was found the number of crimes not properly investigated accounted for 5% of all crimes reported from 2010 to 2017.

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Police Authority chair Josephine Feehily speaking to the press (Niall Carson/PA)

Gardai have put a number of measures in place in a bid to prevent the failings from happening again and have set up divisional and district teams who will visit people directly impacted by the crimes.

Speaking to the press, Ms Feehily said: “We consider failings that were demonstrated in this review to be extraordinarily serious.

“I say to victims that if they believe that they may have been a victim that’s impacted by this, that they should contact the helpline, they should take up the offer that the Commissioner (Drew Harris) has made to engage with the garda members to explain what has happened in their particular case.

“I would also say future potential victims can hopefully benefit and avoid being victimised by the corrective action that the gardai have proposed.”

Mr Harris said it is “unlikely” offenders related to these crimes will be prosecuted because of the amount of time that has passed.

He said: “Those offences which are indictable we will examine but as I said to the Policing Authority that is unlikely because it will probably be an abusive process to mount a prosecution some maybe four or eight years after the offence was initially reported.

“It is unlikely but we haven’t closed that off completely.”

It is my understanding that a number of the cases in question involved very serious offences and that is of course extremely worrying Jim O’Callaghan, Fianna Fail

Mr Harris also defended his previous comments when he apologised to offenders who gardai failed to investigate properly.

He said: “It is a strange position to be in. These offenders were vulnerable children and they did deserve intervention and that intervention didn’t happen because of the failure of An Garda Siochana.

“We are apologising for an intervention not happening.”

Ms Feehily said it would be “unfortunate” to “diminish” the issue because the children involved were repeat offenders.

She added: “Some of them are no longer alive, that intervention may have saved their lives, that intervention might not have led them behind bars, it may have led to them being under the care of the probation service, so the failure to prosecute has the potential for multiple outcomes.”

Responding to the report, Fianna Fail’s justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said youth offending in Ireland was a “very complex matter” and those involved usually came from “quite distressing, problematic circumstances”.

“Despite this, however, those who have committed a crime should face a sanction of some degree,” he said.

“It is my understanding that a number of the cases in question involved very serious offences and that is of course extremely worrying.

“Should these crimes have gone unpunished due to administrative error or as a result of garda negligence, it is essential that both the minister and government respond.”

PA

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