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Justice Minister says 999 calls being cancelled 'should not have happened'

The Garda Commissioner yesterday issued an apology to the victims who had their 999 calls cancelled.

Justice Minister Heather Humphreys
Justice Minister Heather Humphreys
Image: Leah Farrell via RollingNews.ie

JUSTICE MINISTER HEATHER Humphreys has said incidences in which domestic abuse victims had their 999 calls erroneously cancelled “should not have happened”. 

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris yesterday issued an apology to the hundreds of victims who had their 999 calls cancelled.

The exact extent of the issue is still unknown as an internal garda inquiry is “a work in progress”, but initial findings estimate some 312 victims had their calls cancelled before there was an appropriate policing response.

The commissioner also revealed that the inquiry has so far found the issue was caused by technological and procedural failings, as well as individual gardaí not adhering to procedures and policies.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Humphreys said “this should not have happened”. 

“Any inappropriate cancellation of 999 calls is a very serious issue,” she said. 

“What happened here is significantly below the high standards that the public expects of the gardaí and the standards that An Garda Síochána should set for themselves,” the Justice Minister added. 

Humphreys said that “there are new processes in place to ensure that this never happens and that’s welcome”. 

Meanwhile, Commissioner Harris held a public meeting with the Policing Authority yesterday to answer questions about the failure of gardaí to properly respond to emergency calls.

During the meeting, the authority’s chairman Bob Collins expressed “intense frustration” that it was not provided with information that was available to the gardaí.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Prime Time last night, Collins said the 999 revelations probably wouldn’t have come to light had the Policing Authority not put pressure on An Garda Síochána. 

“There are two separate issues. One is the actual cancellation of calls. The second was the quality of service that was provided to people who make calls, the way in which they were responded to, the way in which they were listened to, the extent to which there was understanding for their stress and distress,” Collins said. 

“Nobody rings 999 casually. It is a very significant decision to take. And I’m not at all satisfied that anything like enough has been done to deal with that issue,” he said. 

Internal inquiry

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

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.

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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 yesterday 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.

With reporting by Adam Daly

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