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Other Questions. - Garda Records.

Thursday, 17 October 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 555 No. 4

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 10. Mr. Gilmore Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell  the progress made to date in regard to allegations of falsification of conviction rates in Garda records in Waterford; when the promised new system for the collation of crime figures will be in place; the way in which the new system will work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18494/02]

Mr. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell The Garda Commissioner is gravely concerned that any doubt should be cast on the accuracy of information which may form part of his Garda annual report arising from the allegations relating to the treatment of crime statistics in Waterford city Garda district as contained in The Star. As a consequence, the Garda Commissioner appointed, on 14 February, a chief superintendent from outside the region to review all aspects of the information received. Specifically, the chief superintendent will carry out a complete audit of all headline and applicable non-headline offences in the Garda district in question for 2001. The audit will examine all detected offences and the evidence pertaining to those offences being declared as detected. It will also examined compliance with the crime counting rules as they currently apply. Given the importance of the figures contained in the Garda Commissioner's annual report on crime, I assure the House that the report of the chief superintendent, when finalised, will be made public.

At this point I want to put on the record of the House that I very much share the concern of the Deputy that these allegations have arisen. Although I have no role, and do not intervene, in the compilation of crime statistics, it should go without saying that public confidence must be upheld in the validity and legitimacy of crime statistics emanating from the organisations solely responsible for their completion, namely An Garda Síochána.

However, it must also be recognised that the crimes which are the subject of the controversy occurred in 2001 and the Commissioner's Annual Report of An Garda Síochána for that year has yet to be finalised. I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the process of validating crime figures for the year 2001 is, at present, under way in all Garda districts and will not be completed for some time. The Deputies will be aware that earlier this summer I brought to the public's attention the preliminary figures as soon as I got them.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte This is yet another internal inquiry. Is the Minister concerned that while these inquiries are set up, the public has long forgotten the matters for which they were established by the time they report? When will we know the outcome? Why, apparently, was there a deliberate distortion of the crime figures in the Waterford area?

I have a copy of the document sent to The Star. If it is founded in fact – we do not know yet if it is or not, but clearly there was an internal dispute in the Garda station – it is a matter of serious concern. Is the Minister satisfied that this revelation from an internal dispute in the Water[1118] ford region is not reflected in the general compilation of figures and can he give the House an idea of when we will have this report?

Can he explain to me, an ordinary lay person, why is it taking so long to investigate what seems to be a fairly straightforward allegation that the actual crime incidence in the Waterford area and those recorded on computer are different? How could it take that long? How is it that when we have a controversy like this affecting the Garda, and affecting the good name of the many thousands of gardaí who diligently set about their daily work, it is quelled by the words “There will be an inquiry”? However, it takes months to get the inquiry and then it is done in a fashion which does not really relate to the original concern in the public mind.

Mr. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell The Deputy will appreciate that the allegations in the newspaper are serious and serious allegations must be carefully investigated. I share the Deputy's concern that this afternoon we are talking a great deal in these proceedings about inquiries into this and that. I appreciate, and I am sensitive to, the overall effect that such focus on inquiries into various aspects of An Garda Síochána could have for the force's reputation and internal morale. The point, which I have also made to members of the representative associations, is that in a culture of openness, transparency and accountability when matters which deserve inquiry are brought to light, they will be inquired into. I do not want to create the impression that the Garda Síochána spends more time investigating itself than the commission of crimes.

The non-investigation and concealment of matters such as these and turning a blind eye to them would yield a far more bitter harvest if that were allowed to go ahead. Some might consider that some of the controversies that have affected the Garda Síochána have arisen in the context of a culture of turning a blind eye or not fully and thoroughly investigating every possible misdemeanour when it comes to light. If we want a modern, effective and professional police force, we must accept that the highest standards must apply. That involves making it clear within the Garda Síochána that a culture of complicity can never be allowed to emerge.

One of the reasons for the independent inspectorate, which will be the subject of proposed legislation next year, is to ensure the public has the highest confidence in the investigation of standards in the Garda Síochána generally and individual complaints. The members of the Garda Síochána who, almost to a man and woman, want to uphold high standards are not fools and know that the system reinforces and supports those who support high standards rather than those who deviate from them.

[1119]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Ceist a haon déag.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I have a short question for the Minister.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We must proceed, Deputy, we are over the time. In fairness to your colleagues, Deputies are waiting to have their questions heard and if I do not apply the rules, they may have wasted their evening.

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