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Policing Authority expresses 'deep dissatisfaction' with Garda engagement over cancelled 999 calls

The force’s response has caused “intense frustration”.

Image: Shutterstock/chainarong06

THE CHAIRPERSON OF the Policing Authority has expressed the body’s “deep dissatisfaction” and “significant concern” with the engagement it received from An Garda Síochána regarding cancelled 999 emergency calls.

Chairman Bob Collins criticised the nature of the information provided by the force, the response the authority received to clarifications it sought and the “unsatisfactory” level of engagement from gardaí.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris is meeting the authority this afternoon to answer questions about the failure of gardaí to properly respond to 999 emergency calls, largely from domestic violence victims in 2019 and 2020.

The commissioner issued an apology to the hundreds of domestic abuse victims who had their 999 calls erroneously cancelled.

Ahead of the meeting today, the policing authority published the minutes of its last meeting in relation to the garda investigation into call cancellation, which took place on 27 May.

Speaking today, Collins expressed his own and the Authority’s “intense frustration” that information available to the gardaí was not provided to the Authority.

“We now know that the seriousness and the substance, about which we began to have an apprehension in March, had been widely understood within the organisation from October. And it has been a source of significant concern and, not to put a tooth in it, fairly intense frustration,” Collins said.

That it has been very difficult. No approach was made to us, in that regard, no unveiling of that information was done. And it has been difficult, from the very recent year, to get substantive and comprehensive information in relation to what was happening.

When asked, during today’s meeting, if there was evidence that gardaí had coordinated through Whatsapp groups to cancel calls, in order to avoid paperwork, Harris said “it would be wrong to say our minds are closed to that possibility.” 

“It’s perhaps not as portrayed in the media. I’ll leave that open in terms of that’s something we’re watching for,” he added.

The internal inquiry into the cancellation of domestic violence calls was set up when a victim of domestic violence raised concerns about the matter.

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The inquiry, led by Assistant Commissioner Barry O’Brien, centred around the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system – an antiquated IT system that has been in operation since the 1980s.

O’Brien examined 3,000 calls in the two year period, with the interim report finding that about half of these calls were cancelled correctly but hundreds of calls were not. 

Collins said today that it’s “very clear” that it wasn’t a technical problem that caused the high rate of cancelled calls. 

“There wasn’t nothing mechanically wrong to cause calls to be cancelled. It was the decisions of individuals which caused calls to be cancelled,” he said.

About the author:

Céimin Burke

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