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Almost one third of crimes are wrongly classified by gardaí, finds report

The Garda Inspectorate report found serious problems with the way that gardaí classify crimes.

Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

MEMBERS OF THE gardaí have unrestricted access to PULSE records, despite the fact that other police services restrict access to sensitive investigations, according to the Garda Inspectorate report into An Garda Síochána.

The report also found that PULSE records do not always reflect the gravity of the crime committed.

Based on a sampling of 500 PULSE crime records, the Inspectorate found 30% to be incorrectly classified, while there was  insufficient detail in 16% of cases to determine if the classification was correct.

Classification 

The Inspectorate disagreed with 32% of the classifications shown on PULSE.

Since 2011, nearly one million PULSE records have been created.

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Looking at the classification of crimes, assaults had lower rates of correct classification at 38%.

Overall, 8.5% of all crimes recorded on PULSE were reclassified over a seventeen month
period from January 2011 to May 2012. Examining 2,372 crimes reclassified between January 2011 and May 2012 in the seven divisions visited, the Inspectorate states that six of the eight categories significantly moved to a lesser crime type.

In 83% of cases, reclassification resulted in a crime moving to a less serious
offence.

The greatest percentage movement to a lesser crime took place in the categories
of burglary, robbery and assault harm.

Domestic violence 

Domestic disputes showed the highest percentage change to a more serious offence, while a large number of incidents were moved to the non-crime category of Attention and Complaints, with minor assault incidents and domestic disputes featuring highly in these figures.

Here is an example of PULSE reclassification for a crime that was initially classified as theft person and theft.

The commentary on the incident is taken from PULSE incident record details included on the Inspectorate’s database.

  • A victim gave their phone to someone who ran off with it. It was correctly reclassified from theft person to theft.
  • Two purses taken from a buggy in a shop. Correctly reclassified from theft person to theft.
  • Money taken from handbag. Crime reclassified from theft to property lost. GISC questioned the reclassification, but it was unanswered. The PULSE record suggested that theft was the right classification.
  • Details from a person’s credit card were used and the bank was unsure about the jurisdiction for the crime. The crime was reclassified into Attention and Complaints without any explanation. GISC questioned the reclassification in 2010 and two years later it remained unanswered.

The Inspectorate said that there were poor narrative sections on PULSE, where there was a lack of details relating to the crime scene, suspects and witnesses.

The Inspectorate recommends that the gardaí publishes policy establishing the roles and responsibilities of all staff in regard to the reclassification and invalidation of PULSE incident records, with GISC having the final decision.

It is recommended that GISC have full PULSE incident access, including the ability to view records that are reclassified or invalidated. In the interim, the gardaí should
develop guidelines to be issued to all staff clearly articulating what is and is not permitted on PULSE.

The full report can be viewed here.

Read: ‘Serious concerns’ raised about Garda processes and systems>

Read: It’ll be next year before we find out just what happened right before Martin Callinan ‘retired’>

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