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'How in God's name could that be called a comprehensive analysis?': Garda homicide figures probed

Figures from An Garda Síochána were before the Oireachtas Justice Committee today.

Michael Finn (left) with Gurchand Singh
Michael Finn (left) with Gurchand Singh
Image: Oireachtas TV

SENIOR FIGURES FROM An Garda Síochána appeared before the Oireachtas Justice Committee today and said that it will take at least six months for its analysts to review its homicide figures.

The head of its analysis service said today that he could not sign off on an internal garda review of the figures because of the discrepancies he found almost a year ago.

The Policing Authority, and Minister for Justice, have already expressed frustration over the gardaí’s approach to the figures.

In April last year, An Garda Síochána said it had completed a review of 41 deaths and identified “minor” classification issues, but stressed that each one had been properly investigated. It later told the Policing Authority that a total of 89 homicides over a 14-year period were not counted due to an issue with the way they were recorded on the Pulse database.

Speakers today – in place of Acting Commissioner Dónal Ó Cualáin who was attending the funeral of Superintendent Colm Fox – included assistant commissioner Michael Finn and Gurchand Singh, the head of the gardaí’s analysis service.


The assistant commissioner began by saying that any death “must be investigated fully and professionally so that families can be given answers”.

Finn said that An Garda Síochána discovered the figures after ordering a review of domestic violence trends, including homicides, in July 2016.

The analysis division compared cases based on reports from the State Pathologist and their entries on Pulse.

In some cases, the pathologist’s report would record a case as a homicide but the Pulse entry would label it as merely an assault.

Singh was asked about the later clarification in the number of cases that were suspect between April and September 2017.

He said: “I still had concerns [about the April report].

I still couldn’t square how an incidence was classified how it was. I’d look at an instance where there was an injured person who was later deceased, the offence was down as an assault causing harm. We had ‘sudden deaths’ [listed as such on Pulse] that looked like that we were treating as homicides.

Singh said that some of the classifications “contradicted our crime counting rules”.

It was emphasised that these cases may have been investigated as homicides, and charges may have been brought against people, but the Pulse record did not change and as such could not be counted as part of official statistics.

When it was put to him by Clare Daly that such incidents couldn’t be classed as “minor”, Finn agreed.

He said: “We fully accept the review process could have been done quicker…. Given the seriousness of the crimes involved, it is important it is thorough, detailed and robust.”

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Take some time

On the back of these discrepancies found, the CSO was unable to compile its crime statistics and the gardaí ordered a more comprehensive review of its crime stats in this regard.

When queries by how long this would take, Singh said it would take considerable time.

“In terms of purely the classification side of it, it’s not going to be a quick process,” he said. “We’re not talking about weeks, we’re talking five or six months.”

Finn said that beyond simply classifying the crimes, any issues where discrepancies were found may require a reexamination of the investigation file.

“There are aspects we can do quickly,” he said, referencing discrepancies in road traffic collision stats. Cases of murder and manslaughter may take more time, Finn added.

Clare Daly put it to Finn that Singh’s analysis of the cases didn’t include looking at the actual investigation files.

“How in God’s name could that be called a comprehensive analysis?” she asked, adding that Singh had raised concerns about the figures as far back as November 2016, barely a few months into the analysis of the figures.

Read: Policing Authority ‘frustrated’ with delay in garda review of unrecorded homicides

Read: Justice Minister is ‘extremely concerned’ at reports that homicides weren’t properly investigated

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Sean Murray

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