Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 14 January 2015
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality
Report on Crime Investigation 2014: Garda Inspectorate
As we have a quorum we shall commence the meeting in public session.
I wish to take this opportunity to welcome members back after the recess. I hope everybody had a good break and I wish members and their families all the best for 2015. I hope we will have a good year and that we will get as much work done this year as we did in 2014.
Apologies have been received from Deputies Anne Ferris, Alan Farrell, Fergus O'Dowd and Niall Collins.
The purpose of this meeting is to have an engagement with the Garda Inspectorate on the published report on crime investigation 2014. A briefing has been circulated to members on this. I wish to warmly welcome Mr. Bob Olson, the chief inspector, as well as the deputy chief inspectors, Mr. Mark Toland and Ms Debra Kirby. I thank them for taking the time to be here and engaging with the committee. The format is that we will ask Mr. Olson to make a brief opening statement of about five minutes' duration. We will then have a question and answer session. I realise it is not possible to cover this report in five minutes. It is a pretty comprehensive, impressive report with an awful lot in it, but I am sure we will be able to touch on the main points today. We will probably revisit some of the points, on and off, to see how things are going.
I ask everybody to turn off all mobile phones and other such devices that might interfere with the sound system, or else put them on flight mode.
I must also draw the attention of witnesses to the situation concerning privilege. They should note that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009 witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of any evidence they give to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence in relation to a particular matter and continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given. They are also asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.
The same applies to members. They should be aware that under the salient rulings of the Chair, members should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
I now invite Mr. Olson to make his opening statement.
Mr. Robert K. Olson:
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Chairman and other members of the committee for inviting representatives of the Garda Inspectorate here today. I wish to introduce the team to the committee. I am Robert K. Olson, the chief inspector of the Garda Inspectorate. I was appointed to this position in July 2012, having previously served as a deputy chief inspector on the establishment of the inspectorate in 2006. I have held chief of police and commissioner positions in several large US cities. In 2004, I retired from active policing after 38 years.
I am joined today by our two deputy chief inspectors, Mark Toland and Debra Kirby. Mr. Toland, who had the lead on the crime investigation inspection, joined the inspectorate in June 2012, having retired at the rank of chief superintendent from the London Metropolitan Police after 30 years' service. In 2010, he was awarded the Queen's medal for distinguished police services.
Ms Kirby was appointed as deputy chief inspector in January 2014, having served with the Chicago police department for 27 years. She retired with the rank of chief having served in a variety of commands, including being the general counsel to the superintendent, which is the commissioner in the city of Chicago.
I will now turn to the crime investigation report. On 11 November 2014, the Minister for Justice and Equality published the inspectorate's crime investigation report. For over two years, the inspectorate examined policies, practices and procedures used in the prevention and investigation of crime. The inspection also included a review of the allocation of Garda resources, the use of technology and the management of case loads. It also monitored the progress of individual investigations.
The report runs to over 500 pages and contains 11 parts dealing with every aspect of crime investigation from crime prevention, crime recording and the experience of victims, through to crime detection and final disposition.
Following the appointment of Deputy Frances Fitzgerald as the Minister for Justice and Equality in May 2014, the inspectorate was requested to consider the issues identified in the Guerin report. It was not within the inspectorate's remit to duplicate Mr. Guerin's work, but rather to review the process issues identified in the report relevant to An Garda Síochána's practices and procedures.
Consequently, the contents of the Guerin report were considered against the backdrop of the inspectorate’s ongoing crime investigation inspection. The report includes an addendum covering same. The inspectorate references best international practice throughout to inform our national standards and to ensure consistency in victim care and crime investigation practices.
The report identified many areas of good practice in different Garda divisions and in different parts of the country. These include a new community policing model, a range of crime prevention initiatives, cross-district crime operations, a new approach to integrated briefings and a number of technological initiatives, including a Garda portal for criminal intelligence officers. Such elements of good practice while used in some divisions and units were not, however, consistent across the Garda Síochána. In any organisation of this size, it is important to ensure that good practice is consistently observed.
The report identifies many deficiencies in systems and practices, including serious failures in the recording, classification and reclassification of crime incidents; inconsistencies in the claiming of detections; a lack of oversight of the decision-making process; no standardised crime management process for reviewing, allocating and monitoring of investigations and ensuring each investigation is effective; an absence of intrusive supervision of crime investigations; inexperienced gardaí investigating serious crimes; a new roster that does not adequately support the investigative process; concerns over the timeliness of investigations; inconsistent approach to updating victims of crime; that foundation training provided pre-2014 for investigating crime does not adequately equip gardaí for the task at hand; a lack of IT and equipment to support the investigation of crime; and deficiencies in offender management practices, particularly in the taking of fingerprints.
This report should be viewed as a watershed opportunity in Irish policing. It contains more than 200 significant recommendations to be implemented on an interim, short, medium and long term basis, to ensure that crime investigation in the Garda Síochána is in line with, and can exceed, international best practice. Some of these recommendations have been made in previous inspectorate reports but have not been fully implemented and are, as a result, even more urgent today. The objective of this report is to help make the Garda Síochána a better service for the public, victims of crime, members of the force and the criminal justice system in Ireland. A victim of crime anywhere in Ireland should receive the same high quality service.
Several of the crime investigation issues in the report are not the sole responsibility of the Garda Síochána. The report highlights how other parts of the criminal justice system can influence the investigation of crime. Inefficiencies in the system must be addressed in a holistic manner by regular collective collaboration between all criminal justice partners. Twenty-two of the report’s recommendations request action from a combination of criminal justice partners to improve the standards of crime investigation in Ireland on a wide variety of issues. Some of the key recommendations in the report relate to technology, restructuring and improved decision-making and supervision. Several significant recommendations are made on the crime counting process. Important recommendations are made on improving the service to victims of crime. Training is also targeted as an area for improvement. There are critical process areas, including custody, fingerprinting, bail and warrant management that need to be enhanced.
Many of our recommendations depend on the acquisition of modern technology used by most international police services. This technology can provide the modern tools the Garda Síochána needs to inform more efficient and effective operational decisions. Technology cannot, however, take the place of strong management practices, intrusive supervision and robust governance in the investigation of crime. The inspectorate welcomes the commitment of the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald and the Government, to secure funding to upgrade Garda IT systems and for the new police authority and the Cabinet Committee on Justice Reform to oversee the Garda programme of reforms recommended by the inspectorate.
It should also be pointed out that the inspectorate was impressed by the hundreds of hard working and dedicated rank and file officers, reserves and support staff it met in every region, who were doing their best to get the job done, notwithstanding these inefficient processes, dated technology and poor management practices identified in the report.
To date, the inspectorate has received a substantial amount of positive feedback from stakeholders and particularly from Garda rank and file members. The full report has been downloaded approximately 10,000 times on our website and has also been hosted by other websites. The inspectorate remains committed to ensuring it recommends those improvements that will advance the Garda Síochána to a police service recognised for international best practice. My colleagues and I are happy to take any questions the committee members might have.
I thank Mr. Olson and congratulate him on summarising the report in a few short pages. We agreed at a previous meeting that we would invite members to ask three questions. Deputy McGrath suggested that initially. Each member can ask three questions and get answers and then we will move on to someone else. We can return to the original member if he or she wants to ask further questions, as there are no limits to the number of questions members can ask. I ask members not to make speeches, rather to ask short, succinct questions.
I welcome and commend the Garda Inspectorate. Despite varied political views on this committee, we share a vision of transforming the Garda Síochána into a leading police force, both in Ireland and across the European Union. My first question relates to the inaccuracies in the PULSE system mentioned in the report, whereby 30% of incidents were examined and were recorded incorrectly and insufficient detail was given for 16%. How do the witnesses see this hampering crime investigation and crime management?
Mr. Mark Toland:
The most important issue we identified was the recording of the incident to start with, before it gets onto the PULSE system and is classified and put in a certain category, which we think is a major deficiency. When someone dials 999 or goes into a Garda station, they have an expectation that the information they provide is recorded properly. We found a deficiency in recording some crimes. The Deputy mentioned that 30% of crimes that went on the system were put in a category we did not agree with. If a crime is not recorded properly in the first place, or if it goes in the wrong crime category, one will not know one has a problem, one will not know the specifics of that problem and the locations, and one will not deploy resources appropriately to deal with that problem. It is a major issue. We have identified technological difficulties. Some divisions in Ireland have a computerised electronic system called computer-aided dispatch, CAD, which records this, while others are operating on paper. One of the major deficiencies we found was the IT systems. Another issue is supervision, the absence of a front-line sergeant or an inspector on duty 24/7, to ensure that when a garda goes to deal with something, it is recorded correctly at the time and the garda is not allowed to go home with a crime in their notebook. Most gardaí do not come to work thinking "I will not record a crime today", but they are busy dealing with other things, and there is no one to ensure that crime is correctly recorded before they go home. Once it is recorded, one must ensure it is in the right category and then one can appoint a suitable investigator. That is a crucial stage - the first recording and ensuring it is in the right category in the system.
The report also found examples of good practice in policing, particularly as it relates to communities, but it stated that this was not consistent across the board throughout the police force. Why do the witnesses think that was the case? My second question is particularly about the average garda - I would be particularly interested in Mr. Toland's views on this - who, the witnesses stated when compiling the original report, works eight-hour shifts. How many of those hours does the Garda actually work in the community, in Mr. Toland's experience? The reason I direct this question to Mr. Toland is that I visited the London police force a number of years ago as a member of this committee and we met community policemen in inner-city London. Of their eight-hour shift, at least six to seven hours were spent in the community, which I thought was fantastic. That does not appear to be the case in Ireland at the moment.
Has Mr. Toland come across examples of good practice in this issue and how would he see us dealing with this? The regular complaint we get as politicians is that the broader community wants to see the police officer out on the street in the community.
Mr. Mark Toland:
I will take two parts and I am sure my colleagues will come in. I am very passionate about community policing and come from a police environment where they had dedicated resources. We were very lucky in London because there were additional resources provided on the understanding that, as a chief superintendent, I would not take them away to do other things. The Garda Síochána has not got that luxury. Some divisions have good numbers of full-time community officers. When I say a community officer I am talking about a dedicated officer whose main role it is. The Dublin divisions have certainly still got pretty good numbers. Some of the divisions have 20 or 30; in fact, there are 70 in one of the Dublin divisions, but the more rural areas are struggling to maintain the numbers of gardaí dedicated to community policing. It is a major challenge for them and we recognise that in the report.
We have been to community meetings to find out what the public want from their police, and they want accessibility, to know the individual garda, to have that relationship. There are some very difficult decisions to make. We are recommending trying to free up gardaí and sergeants in non-operational, administrative roles to get them back to front-line duties. Some should be redeployed into community engagement because it is very important to local people. We recognise that a model for Ireland has to be flexible enough to provide different types of policing for cities like Dublin, Cork or Limerick, but also for counties Donegal, Mayo or Kildare. There needs to be different approaches.
London set a target whereby community officers had to spend 80% of their time in their particular areas. I was not allowed to take them away to do other things. It was a fantastic commitment to the public, but once those officers are deployed the situation needs to be maintained. At public meetings, people have told us they are very happy with the service they get from community officers but when they dial 999 they are not getting a community officer, they are getting an officer who is coming to deal with that call and then wants to go off to deal with another one. There is a clear role for someone to deal with a 24/7 emergency call. There is also a need for commitment to having a full-time community officer who is there and available to attend community meetings and to support things like neighbourhood watch, text alert and community alert in rural areas. We need that visible presence of a known face, an individual who can be contacted.
Community policing is the heart of policing. The Garda Síochána wants to serve communities - that is its mission statement - and to work to protect communities. It is very important to have a physical presence and officers should not be taken away to do other things. At the moment, officers are being taken away to help with other duties, to do response-type policing, and they are being taken away from their community roles.
Mr. Robert K. Olson:
The other part of this question has to do with other things that we pointed out in the report regarding the tools that the Garda needs - and does not have - to keep track and know exactly what officers are doing. A short answer is that we do not really know how much time they are spending out of station, out in the community, and neither do they. That is why we have recommended additional supervision for sure, but also acquiring the technology which will let them know who is on duty, what they are doing, where they have gone, how long they have been there and what they have been doing while they are there. As of now, the force does not have that capacity unless people try and do it with paper and such. It is a complex issue and we do not know for sure if gardaí spend more or less time out in the field. From what we have seen, we suspect they are not out in the field as much as they ought to be.
Have the witnesses come across examples of good practice in policing, particularly in disadvantaged communities where there is widespread intimidation by drugs gangs? Are there examples of the gardaí handling these issues in a positive way? There are many communities, including in my own constituency, where particular gangs dominate whole streets and communities. Fear is rampant, intimidation is horrific and families and children are being intimidated out of their houses, yet nobody will go to the Garda.
This is a major problem.
Mr. Mark Toland:
We went to Limerick first and, while we did not look at particular issues in terms of the gang issues, it is a different place to what it was four or five years ago as a result of the work they have done to focus on what effectively is normally a small number of people who cause havoc in a small community. In Limerick, we found some very good practices in policing operations. Although it was not one of the divisions we looked at, we also went to the Dublin metropolitan region, DMR (North), and to Store Street. We looked at their new community policing model. The thing I like about it is that they are knocking on doors, which is something we did in London, and reintroducing themselves to the community. However, most important, they are finding out what are the local priorities for that particular community rather than telling them what are the policing priorities and that this is what they are going to invest their resources in. They are going out to find out what the community issues are. These issues tend to be young people, who are not necessarily committing crime but who are hanging around, anti-social behaviour and drug dealing. That particular division is focusing on the priorities and reporting to those communities. The feedback is very good. It now has a database of 10,000 stakeholders whom it can contact and which it can update. It is a good example of responding to a community's priorities rather than just assuming one knows what is actually affecting a particular community.
Ms Debra Kirby:
Feeding upon what Mr. Toland said, the other thing that one has to look at is the idea of what it is that a community wants. The challenge that we saw, throughout this report, was that pockets of good practice were not being shared throughout the organisation. When good ideas, such as the ones identified, are coming forward, the ability to take those forward into other areas becomes important. That idea of oversight and bringing good ideas forward is part of the overall recommendation we have made.
Obviously rural issues and urban issues are somewhat distinct. However, when one looks at policing internationally, one notes this continues to be the challenge for all police services. What works in certain places can transfer in part to other places. This idea of trying to improve and better the service throughout the continuation of a pilot or a project becomes important as well.
Following up on the question of the PULSE system and the inadequacies and so on, I would see the PULSE system, in one sense, as the bible or foundation stone of the Garda Síochána. Arising from that, will the witnesses comment on a problem we seem to have in Ireland for some time, namely, the amount of crime committed by people out on bail? How can the PULSE system track this? Inevitably, most weeks, in some newspaper, we read of what are sometimes horrific crimes committed by people who are out on bail awaiting trial. These are serious crimes which are being committed, whether it is drug issues, instances of murder or intimidation and so on.
Do we need a new PULSE system which is ultra modern? How can we ensure the PULSE system, with a 30% fault line, can be improved? If there is a 30% fault line, that trickles down the whole line as far as I am concerned.
If there is a lack of interaction, perhaps the witnesses will comment on it because it is a serious issue. If there is a lack of co-ordination perhaps there should be co-ordination. If someone has committed a crime and is left out on bail, that person should be tracked by PULSE or by someone.
Mr. Robert K. Olsen:
We did look at the issue of bail, which was an issue brought up in the Guerin report as well. When the Senator mentions PULSE, he must understand that PULSE is a 1990s technology. It was bought for the purpose of it being a repository for information and not an analytical tool. It is not a deployment tool. It is a big repository. When it was put in, it clearly enhanced the Garda Síochána's ability to manage its organisation but it was never intended to do the things the Senator is talking about, namely, tracking people, tracking bail and all that kind of a thing. That is why we have recommended that it is time to retire PULSE. We will be furthering this in our Haddington Road review. It is not possible to retire it right away. It has to be kept running. However, the Garda Síochána needs an entirely different platform in order to adequately track the kinds of things the Senator is speaking about. Currently they have to do it in a somewhat ad hocmanner and create perhaps a PULSE entry level where they can specifically monitor something but it is very cumbersome and very difficult.
I am aware they are trying to do that but the bottom line is that in the long term they will need a new platform for that and their despatch system.
Mr. Mark Toland:
PULSE has an application system but the numbers of people who are currently signing on at Garda stations are astronomical and very difficult to manage. Police services internationally have tried to restrict the number of people who can sign on in police stations. It is effective for certain individuals but other jurisdictions are moving towards curfews whereby a police officer checks on an individual at a certain time, perhaps without telling him or her in advance when the check will take place. Once an individual has signed in at a Garda station, there is no system in place to monitor him or her, whereas an individual on a curfew can be restricted to certain areas and times.
I do not think supervision of bail through PULSE will work. We recommend a new system for people on bail who are high risk which would involve an offender management integrated multi-agency approach, with the Garda and the Probation Service as key partners focusing on these high risk individuals. There is a good system for young offenders but we recommend that the agencies responsible for monitoring high-risk individuals should be collocated so that they share information better and ensure such individuals are checked on frequently and, where they breach bail, brought back before the courts. We have found that not every breach of bail identified in the report was brought before the courts. Not every court wants the individual concerned brought back on the first breach of bail and gardaí do not have powers of arrest of people in breach of bail. They have to get a summons or a warrant. Our recommendations would enhance the power to enforce breach of bail conditions by taking immediate action.
I visited several busy Garda stations in which huge numbers were signing on. I am not convinced that an individual who did not sign on at a particular time would be noticed immediately. That represents a risk and the report identifies that concern.
The report's recommendations are not solely aimed at the Garda Síochána because other agencies also play a key role in this area. The various agencies could work together better because the system needs to be managed by more than the Garda. There is an opportunity to investigate the potential of an integrated offender management, multi-agency team that can deal with people on bail who are high risk.
I thank the witnesses for their enlightening answers. I may have mixed up PULSE with bail. The latter is a source of concern for me and I appreciate their comments. They recommended that information technology graduates and science experts be recruited into the Garda, perhaps at the rank of sergeant or inspector. That is a good idea because most gardaí who pass through Templemore do not have the necessary skills in science or information technology. We recently came through a phase in which gardaí were stuck in stations throughout the country doing desk work. These gardaí have since been deployed onto the streets to the greatest extent possible. I ask how this recommendation might be implemented. It looks positive on the face of it but how could it be used to improve the expertise available to the Garda?
Ms Debra Kirby:
I think we are speaking about two distinct issues. The idea of seconding personnel to the Garda as it is currently constituted has some value in terms of being able to recruit talented and skilled people to fulfil duties without requiring them to spend time at Templemore. When we speak specifically about information technology skills and other skills that are more commonly available in the private sector, we are referring to a workforce modernisation issue. The inspectorate reviewed certain areas and made recommendations in the report was also prepared in anticipation of a forthcoming report arising from the Haddington Road review which will examine how we can modernise the workforce overall. Under previous practice in the Garda Síochána, individuals who were skilled in certain areas, including IT, were recruited directly. This practice offered the benefit of recruiting personnel into an organisation that was entirely sworn. The Garda now has the ability to recruit civilian personnel under a variety of circumstances, including contracts, direct hire and part-time employment.
Those areas are under review and, considering the police services internationally, we can take them forward here to provide better services overall. The report took in hiring practices for sworn members and is also starting to signpost upcoming review recommendations around other areas, particularly as it goes to specialist skills. We want our gardaí serving in the community fighting crime. Do we need gardaí to provide back-office or mid-office support, or do we need people who have specialised skills? Those issues will be forthcoming.
My third question arises from the witnesses' comments on domestic violence. Up to ten or 15 years ago it was badly managed. Some of our judges and gardaí were not properly trained. Domestic violence is still committed substantially, although not exclusively, against women. Could the witnesses elaborate on how we can better manage and improve the whole area of domestic violence, which is a festering sore on society?
Mr. Mark Toland:
Domestic violence is referred to as a volume crime because of the sheer volume of calls. Given that most police services would have more domestic violence calls than many other crimes such as burglary, it is a major demand generator. Research shows that a person who has the guts to come forward and report a domestic violence incident may have been subjected to 30 other incidents of abuse or physical violence. It is a big step for such a person to make a telephone call or walk into a Garda station to report an incident.
In Ireland, the first officer who turns up at a case is the officer who will investigate it and will continue with the investigation. Most other policing services have found that this does not always work and have dedicated domestic violence investigation teams. The first officer does his or her best with the investigation and makes an arrest if there is a crime. This officer then hands the case over to an investigation unit. Gardaí do not have this luxury, and given that a young officer who attends a scene to investigate a crime may have another 200 cases under investigation at the same time, there is an issue regarding volume.
We spoke to some victims who had a very good response from empathetic gardaí who turned up, and who called back at a later date to ensure the victim was okay and referred the victim to support services. We also had bad examples in which victims felt they were discouraged from reporting an incident. We found many incidents that were not recorded correctly on PULSE, which is a worry. Some gardaí have admitted their failure to record domestic violence where a person had a physical injury. They told us they are frustrated with the system and the way crime rates are allocated in Ireland. They were very honest with us in admitting to a serious discipline offence, namely, the failure to record a crime.
It is often difficult to get victims of domestic violence to come to court. Sometimes they just want the perpetrators taken away, which I understand. Although not every domestic violence victim wants to go through a criminal justice service, they need to be reassured that the crime will be recorded. We found that where a victim was not going to give a written statement, the crime was not always dealt with properly. Given that the recording of domestic violence on our computer system is not great, we found it very difficult to identify the number of calls received regarding domestic violence across Ireland, the number of incidents in which a physical crime is or is not committed, detection rates and the outcomes of the cases that go through the criminal justice system. There is an absence of data. They are not measured.
While there is no risk assessment in place in Ireland, we welcome the news that the Garda Síochána is to introduce a risk assessment process, so when the first garda turns up, he or she will ask far more questions about the history of offending, whether there are children involved and the vulnerabilities of the victim. Most other police services have a criminal justice partners' group that looks particularly at men of violence - most domestic violence, unfortunately, involves men committing offences - and the needs of victims, given that violence tends to escalate.
That is an absence in Ireland and one of our recommendations states there needs to be a criminal justice partners group to actually look at individual cases.
As for positive action, if an offence has been committed, there is an onus on an individual garda who turns up to take positive action and in my currency, that is an arrest and taking in a person. We certainly found many occasions where there were opportunities to arrest but those opportunities were not always taken. We think it is a really important aspect of policing, in that the person concerned has had the guts to pick up a telephone and to ask for help. The first officer who attends is important. If the officer is positive, tells the person he or she will support the person and brings in other organisations to help, one will get people who will come forward and help one with a prosecution. At present, however, it is inconsistent across Ireland with some very good experiences and some very poor experiences.
I join with others in welcoming all three witnesses and commend them on this excellent and really comprehensive report. It contains a great deal that members cannot hope to cover today but the joint committee will try to cover some parts of it.
I noted throughout the report a theme of good practices locally but inconsistency with regard to overall adherence to appropriate standards, whether in respect of crime prevention, recording, detection or dealing with different types of crime such as domestic violence. That struck me as a really strong overriding theme. I will focus again on the issue of domestic violence and sexual offences, about which the Inspectorate makes some really clear recommendations. In respect of rape in particular and serious sexual assault investigations, the inspectorate does not agree with the Garda policy that such investigations can be performed by all front-line gardaí and considers it to be wrong. Rather than that, the inspectorate recommends there should be dedicated rape investigation units. I note that while the domestic violence and sexual offences unit is in place, the inspectorate commented on that by stating it appears to focus on sexual offences against children. Is the inspectorate therefore suggesting this unit should be expanded in order that it has a remit to cover all sorts of serious sexual assault investigations? Does it propose that a similar model should be used for domestic violence in order to have specialist gardaí dealing with that or is it more that front-line gardaí should be trained because they will be the first responders, particularly in domestic violence cases? I am not quite clear as to precisely how the inspectorate proposes this should be changed.
Mr. Mark Toland:
The domestic violence and sexual assault unit effectively is a policy unit. While it performs some investigations, it tends to be involved in investigations into pornography or offences against children. On the domestic violence side, the unit's role is to monitor and to provide support to divisions. Each division in Ireland, of which there are 28, has a nominated inspector who is supposed to check each domestic violence incident but the volume of those crimes means this is not happening. I believe the central unit should be checking where there is a serious domestic violence incident or a serious allegation of rape. The unit should be contacting that division to make sure that everything possible is being done to give it advice and help, and to check that the matter is being investigated thoroughly.
As for what we are recommending, I believe there are 96 district stations in Ireland at present and, effectively, we look at them as being 96 separate units. They work very much in isolation, have a superintendent in charge of them and one could have four or five districts within a division that could be operating completely differently, whereby they could be doing different things with the same crime.
Our report talks about divisions in Ireland, of which there are 28 at present, and we suggest that those divisions should investigate some serious offences with regard to some of the rape investigations and with regard to domestic violence in particular. We recommend they should have a divisional unit with experienced detectives to deal with those cases. Rape is one of the most difficult things to investigate as an investigator, and we have examples of young and inexperienced gardaí who currently are dealing with those cases and when we have spoken to people, they are finding it highly stressful. No investigation time is built into the current roster for many of those people and were it one of my family, I would want a trained investigator to investigate the crime. Consequently, we suggest local investigation units. The first garda will deal with it but a detective will then be called in who will take over that investigation because the attrition rates for serious sexual assaults are very high. One needs trained people to investigate that crime who are well aware of the criminal justice system and the points to prove for a very serious crime.
Ms Debra Kirby:
If I may, I might add that because one is talking about volume crime in respect of domestic violence in particular, initially that first responder needs to be trained up. Moreover, he or she needs to be providing an adequate level of service across all of Ireland. Consequently, a lot of our focus is on the follow-up, which is where one can enable and create greater opportunities for follow-through on safety for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
It is not an either-or situation. One's front-line responders need to be invested in and trained up to a level for their level of response and then the specialised units are able to respond because there might be a time lag or delay and one needs to ensure that the pass-offs are seamless and that victims are supported not only from the initial report but as the investigation is ongoing.
My second question relates to the addendum regarding the Guerin report. The inspectorate makes the point that this was something it was asked to do pursuant to a request from the Minister. It does not make any additional recommendations, following this additional inquiry, on the basis that its recommendations cover the issues in the Guerin report. From my reading of the Guerin report, it seems - as was said - that supervision was a major issue and it has come out in the section on rape and domestic violence as in other sections. There was a lack of supervision of young and inexperienced gardaí dealing with crime investigation. What does the inspectorate think is the most significant recommendation it has made on that? I know it has made recommendations on enhanced supervision at all kinds of levels but where is the key area? The Guerin report in that small microcosm of cases identified so many difficulties with supervision.
Mr. Robert K. Olson:
The theme that goes through this has to do with things we found in previous inspections, which is that one often has policies - they are pretty good ones, written well and state these things - and it is fine to have them but when we go out on the field we look at what is happening on the street. That is where these inconsistencies come up. It is where I think mistakes are made and the supervision issue that the Senator brought up is also a critical component of that. We found there was no significant audit of or follow-up to these incidents. As Mr. Mark Toland said, now they have specific inspectors and people who have specific tasks, which number so many that one could not count them. We found one person had 29 tasks for which they were responsible and they could not physically do them. We found - as I said in regard to the fixed charge penalty report - that nobody is watching the store, and that is what went on here. The sergeants are so busy doing all they are doing and the same applies to the inspectors, that there was no routine checking of every domestic violence call. As Mr. Mark Toland said, nobody was checking that. There might have been pockets of it happening but it is not consistently happening across the country. When the supervisors are not watching, and it does not matter if one is a private secretary or where one is based, the employees will often go off on their tangents and in police work, which is most important, bad things can happen.
Mr. Mark Toland:
It comes down to the absence of a patrol sergeant and I mean a sergeant that is out on patrol and not in a station doing administrative functions. Often a sergeant will be on duty but they will doing other administrative functions. There needs to be a patrol officer, a sergeant and an inspector available to go to the scene of an incident, to make sure a garda, whether experienced or inexperienced, deals with it effectively, and that they check, support, advise and mentor in that respect. There is an absence of that in some places, particularly in the more rural parts where they have struggled with the number of sergeants and inspectors who are available and some units do not have a sergeant to start with. There is no sergeant in place so one cannot criticise the sergeant. In other places they are tied up with all sorts of other supervisory functions, where there is an absence of someone out on patrol available to go to an incident to make sure that one gets it right first time.
Much time in Ireland is wasted having to go back to a scene to do something because the action that should have been taken at the time was not completed. A sergeant would make sure that those actions are taken, that the CCTV footage is collected and the statement is taken and that they would not have to go back to the scene. Once one has all the evidence, one can make much better decisions about who is going to investigate it. If one gets it wrong in the first, two or three hours of a crime incident, it is very hard to recover it. Mistakes are made very early on and it is due to the absence of a sergeant, a physical presence. Sergeants want to be present and we have recommended that there be a patrol sergeant. Many sergeants we met would love to do that role. Sergeants would be volunteering to go back to the front-line to do a role that meant they were doing what they enjoyed doing, which we all did, which is to be out and about, serving their community and dealing with the public, but also guiding youngsters.
The Garda is recruiting youngsters again and they are in Templemore. That system needs to be in place when they come out of Templemore to make sure that inexperienced gardaí in particular are well looked after, well mentored and that experience is passed on to them.
I wish to ask questions about Part V which deals with crime management. Everything is related but one thing that struck me is the fact that the Garda Síochána has no electronic crime management system which is a major obstacle to consistency.
The reclassification of offences has been mentioned in the study which found that only 13% of reclassifications were correct and often no rationale was provided as an explanation. The Garda Inspectorate and others identified this issue. In July 2013 the change was made in the Garda which required that the rationale for reclassification be given. Did the inspectorate see an improvement? Has there been any sign that the reclassification of offences, usually to more minor offences, has made an impact or improved the situation?
Mr. Mark Toland:
The Garda issued two HQ directives or guidance notes or instructions to staff. They were issued, predominantly, after we had finished most of our PULSE analysis so it is difficult for me to say whether the situation has improved.
We looked at specific crime types. We found that 71% of the crimes that we looked at were reclassified incorrectly and only 13% were correctly reclassified. In some of the other cases there was insufficient information. We looked at particular crimes. We did not look at every crime type. It may well be that some other crime types or lesser offences were reclassified from one crime type to another. We did notice that a lot of crimes were reclassified as a non-crime category or vice versaand suggest that this matter be looked at.
One needs to get the classification right in order to reduce the number of crimes that are reclassified. Incorrect classification generates a huge amount of work. Therefore, we recommend a complete change in the way classification is managed. We also recommend that reclassification only take place once certain factors have been looked at and once the rationale is provided for same. We found that there may be very good reasons for reclassification but they were not recorded on PULSE. Therefore, we looked at something that did not explain why a crime was reclassified and there will be occasions where it is appropriate to do so.
Mr. Robert K. Olson:
In addition to what has been said, and again looking at the fixed charge penalty system, we found that a lot of this goes back to the adage mentioned by Mr. Toland and applies to the other report. When one has 96 different commands making decisions on policies then one gets this problem.
As the committee can see in our report, we have again recommended that the deciding authority for the reclassification of these things is maintained in one specific place and by one specific entity so that there is consistent classification and reclassification. I am encouraged by the fact that the new Garda Commissioner has begun a process, at the Garda Information Service Centre. We recommended that the centre was the best place to house one clear authority that will decide whether a crime should be reclassified and its classification category.
Ms Debra Kirby:
Senator Bacik asked about HQ classification in July 2013. Ideally for the inspectorate, particularly in terms of the report on the fixed charge process and because of the new authority we were given to identify areas for review, and because classification and reclassification is such an important area, this is an area the inspectorate would go forward and look at. In the future we might be better informed, relative to the outcome of the July 2013 action, and based on our anticipated powers.
At the time the report was published I described it as a milestone in Irish policing and the inspectorate used the term "watershed." The report is a comprehensive three-year assessment which could not have come at a more important time when more powers are about to be given to the Garda ombudsman and a new policing authority is being established. This committee welcome these developments.
We have the report and recommendations but the recommendations need to be implemented. The inspectorate recommended the establishment of a criminal justice service group comprised of all the relevant stakeholders. Has a group been established? Has the group started to implement the recommendations made by the inspectorate?
Mr. Robert K. Olson:
People are working on some of that. I know that the group will come under the umbrella of the Cabinet committee led by the Taoiseach. I know the establishment of the group has reached planning stage and the Department of Justice and Equality is working out the details.
We had made a similar recommendation in the fixed charge penalty inspection. I can inform the committee that we have had at least two or three briefings by this high level group who are fixing it and coming up with some really good stuff. I am pretty much assured that the same process will be happening - a point I should make here is that we are not leaving this big issue sitting around on desks.
New legislation was mentioned. There is also a tiny paragraph 1.17, that people probably did not see in the proposed Bill, that will give us the authority to go out and inspect without having to wait for the Minister's approval. I can guarantee the committee that the inspectorate will be monitoring this very closely and will be very public about the results of that. On our website we have a implementation table and will do the same thing here. We will be coming in, auditing and taking a look at things.
Mr. Mark Toland:
We spoke to all the stakeholders once we had published the report and have had fantastic feedback from them. They have individually invited us to come and present to their top teams. There is a real appetite to get involved at the highest level. What we want is people who can break through operational barriers, decision makers from the criminal justice partners who can come together and make decisions about the way things are managed, such as the criminal justice service, and a much better service for a victim, much quicker trials and to get through the bureaucracy. There is a real appetite from the criminal justice partners to come together at the highest level and to make decisions between those organisations. We have had a very positive response so far.
Of course our committee will have a role in ensuring that the recommendations are implemented in following years. In its report, the Garda inspectorate refers to the reality that in a number of areas its concerns apply not only to the Garda Síochána but to other elements of the criminal justice system. Our committee has recommended a criminal justice inspectorate based on the model in the North. What are the witnesses' thoughts about that type of model being in place, given the role of the DPP, the courts system, policing presence, the whole spectrum of the system, and how it joins together so that the victim can see continuity and lessons being learned across the system?
Mr. Robert K. Olson:
All I can say is that we co-ordinate regularly with the PSNI's criminal justice inspectorate. It functions quite well. This is a decision that the group here needs to make, whether or not it wants to go that route. Certainly, we are here to listen to anything the committee wishes to suggest but our experience from watching what it does has been very good.
Particular focus as been put on the issue of rosters in the report. The concern is that due to the crisis in recent years, An Garda Síochána has faced cutbacks, as have other elements of the public service. In terms of any criticism of those cutbacks the Garda Commissioner would often have said it was being done for operational or efficiency reasons. Rosters was one of the examples given that this is about a better police service. Would the witnesses have concerns, having done this report, that some of the measures being implemented, while being presented to the public as efficient and for operational reasons, are really reflecting straightforward cutbacks and perhaps they should be more honest with the public about these matters? It is a loaded question. I am an Opposition Deputy and I have my view on this issue. The witnesses may want to answer as they see fit and might deal with the rostering issue.
Mr. Robert K. Olson:
We were pretty clear in that report.
There is one universal roster in place in An Garda Síochána for everyone, from inspector down. Let us set that aside. We carried out an extensive examination of crime investigation. The current universal roster being utilised is not fit for purpose for crime investigation. It is as simple as that. It hampers work. Many investigations have not proceeded which perhaps could have proceeded if people were working when they were really needed on the investigation side. In fact, this has raised such concern that we will include the point in our Haddington Road review as it relates to the entire organisation. One size does not fit all. People do so many different things. We will be taking a good look at what everyone is doing, not only detectives, and whether this kind of work schedule - I am calling it a roster but it is a work schedule - is fit for purpose for whatever those officers are doing.
I thank the Chairman and I thank Mr. Olson for the report. One of my questions was about rosters but I have no wish to ask Mr. Olson to repeat everything. Having spoken to gardaí, I gather the rosters they were working were not humane or family-orientated. Gardaí would do a late shift from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and then come off a shift at 10 p.m. and go home only to be back in on an early shift the following morning at 6 a.m. To my mind it is not right for people to work like that and I am unsure how it could have been effective from an investigation point of view. Can Mr. Olson clarify exactly what is wrong with the times and why it does not work for investigation purposes?
Mr. Robert K. Olson:
What Deputy McFadden has described happened when the original roster was in place. There was a previous report on resource allocation, of which I was the author in a previous life. In that report we said clearly that the roster had to be changed. We even brought in a noted PhD on sleep awareness. The expert was clear that it was killing them and that working that roster over 30 years would take years off their lives. As a result, we laid out some criteria, not the least of which was the European working time agreement, to change that.
What has happened in this case? I will try to stay specific to the investigative or detective process. It was designed initially to try to get a bulge of people working primarily on the weekends at night. When the study was carried out in 2007 or 2008 public order, particularly in rural areas, was a major issue and the force simply did not have people in place. Consequently, the Garda designed a roster that would put more people out on the street during that timeframe. It certainly accomplished that although it had some minuses because on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon when that number of gardaí were not needed, they were tripping over each other. That was not a good thing either. There was a balance problem. Anyway, as far as investigations are concerned, detectives need to be available to do investigative work. Previously, many of them were not on a roster and were working from Monday through Friday from nine to five when the courts were open. They had the ability to get warrants and follow-up with people at home. They would work into the early evening hours to catch certain people, for example, witnesses who they could talk to after work. Anyway, we do not need detectives sitting around at 1 a.m. At that time they are not doing anything and they cannot talk to anyone. They are not going to get CCTV footage and view it. They cannot do any of that work at that time. We can take this all the way down to gardaí. As Mr. Toland mentioned earlier, many gardaí carry minor cases, although others are not so minor. There are implications for their ability to work on such cases. For example, a garda may have been working days and then suddenly changed to working nights. At 2 a.m. he is not going to follow up on a case in those circumstances.
The four days off was a problem because basically they lost track of their cases. Victims and witnesses did not have access to them. We identified many problems in the report relative to that. There is also the issue of working six straight ten-hour days in a row. Let us suppose there is a court hearing and some hours of overtime as well and so on.
Every superintendent we talked to said that by the time they get to the fifth or sixth day, they are dragging and are not up to the full level of alertness and productivity that they should have.
We focus specifically in this report on the case accomplishment. There would be a victim from whom they might have taken a report on the last day of their work and it is five or six days later before they even get a call in to them. There is then the question of access to an open store so they can view their CCTV or do whatever else they had to do. We found a myriad of problems that are identified in this report that indicated that probably was not a good idea for a criminal investigation. We know the Commissioner has a group that is reviewing again this work schedule. We will be anxious to see what they come up with but I can tell the Deputy that in the Haddington Road agreement review we will be making some more specific recommendations to the roster.
I suppose it is a case of urban versus rural but on his travels did Mr. Olson get a sense of loss in terms of the rural Garda stations? Small stations were closed down and people were moved into the towns. Some would argue that was more cost effective than having a garda based in a small village. Others would argue that a garda based in a village or small town would have local knowledge and therefore would be better from an investigation point of view. Did Mr. Olson come across that and what were his views on it?
Mr. Robert K. Olson:
I want to be clear. We did not look at it nor is there is anything in this report that would have some impact on the location and the number of Garda stations. It was not the remit; it was not what we looked at. We looked at crime investigation and how it was being accomplished, and the report will speak for itself. I am listening to focus groups and whatnot. I do not even remember that particular issue being brought up. Mr. Toland might make some comments because he had a lot of community meetings as well to get citizens' input. He might have a point on that, but we did not even look at the issue of Garda stations.
Mr. Mark Toland:
I would make two comments. I live in rural Ireland and have done for five years, and I have also closed police stations in my previous role. People have a real emotional attachment to their Garda stations, and the fear of crime can sometimes be much higher than the reality of becoming a victim so I understand that closeness people have and I can understand when that is taken away.
What I found at community meetings is that people were looking for the individual garda to be available. It was less about the station and more about the access to services. It was about accessibility and being able to contact someone. In some places the community Garda would give out their mobile phone number so people were far more reassured when they had access to services. We make recommendations in here to the effect that if we close a police station or take someone out of a one-Garda station we need to make sure that people know they can have access either through a library, a clinic, a service or that the garda will be available.
Also, it is very hard to measure what a community officer does because quite often they are attending GAA events. They have done a lot of great work with young children. They are very good in terms of intelligence. They know everybody. They know three and four generations. What we recommend is that the community officer should be retained but they should also be doing enforcement. They should be investigating crime. They should be dealing with a plethora of policing services, not just visiting people the same people. My own staff used to do it. They need to be out within the community. They need to publicise when they will be available and people need access. It is very important to see a visible presence of a police officer. Many senior gardaí have a dilemma. Do they leave a police officer sitting in a Garda station at 1 o'clock in the morning waiting for someone to come in or would it be better to close the front counter service at night, put the garda in a car out on patrol? It is about achieving a balance between the two.
I welcome the witnesses. I am sorry I was not able to be here for the beginning of the presentation. Their report deals with the inconsistent approach to updating victims of crime, and many of the recommendations in the report relate to technology, restructuring and improved decision-making and supervision. An issue I raised with the Minister for Justice and Equality in the Seanad recently was the question of whether a system like the TrackMyCrime system being used in several British constabularies could be the way to go.
I recall from the report that people's initial engagement with the Garda can be very satisfactory but it is after this that the problems can arise. We all know we are dealing with a period when we have several thousand fewer gardaí than we had. There is a lot of pressure on gardaí and it is not necessarily a lack of goodwill but a lack of personal availability.
Does Mr. Toland believe this approach is promising, namely, this idea that people would have an individual PIN or access to an online source of information about how the investigation of the crime they have reported is being pursued? Are there any pitfalls in terms of the wrong kind of people accessing that information? Could it prejudice fair trails? If he does think such a system could work in Ireland, can it be developed and modelled in such a way that any possible pitfalls are avoided?
Mr. Mark Toland:
The follow-up is very important. What we have found is that, quite often, a victim is very pleased with the initial garda who comes and the service they get, but all that good work is lost when gardaí do not update a victim. Certainly, during the first few days after a crime, the victim wants a contact. There are then key events such as the arrest or charging of a suspect, or a court date, and we have found that, quite often, a victim is not told of these.
We have suggested there are IT solutions which will prompt an investigator. As an inspectorate, we are very committed to IT solutions. I do not believe the current PULSE system would allow us to put another IT system onto it, which is one of the reasons we did not recommend it. However, anything that provides online information to people is a terrific idea. This has been launched in some forces in the UK. It allows someone to get a progress report and I believe many of these things can be done just by having a system in place to prompt an investigator. Many victims I have spoken to want that face-to-face contact or a telephone contact because they want to ask questions behind the information and they want to know what is going happen next.
Many gardaí have spoken to us who are very frustrated because they struggle to keep the number of victims they are currently managing up to date. If they go off duty for four days and have not updated all of their victims, there is a period where victims are left waiting. Therefore, we welcome the victims offices. The Garda Síochána has committed itself to rolling out a single point of contact victims office in every division in Ireland, and there are currently three or four operating long-term pilots. That will allow a victim to pick up a telephone and ring a unit, and not have to try to find when an individual garda is going to be on duty. We welcome the victims offices because they will give victims a single number they can ring to find out what is happening to their crime.
The IT would be terrific but the Garda needs to invest significantly in technology to allow people to track their crime. We recommend in the report that crime information should be available to communities. They should be able to go onto a website to see how many crimes are taking place in their community and where they are taking place.
Those are some of the recommendations we make. I am very supportive of TrackMyCrime.
I have one follow-up question which relates to something the witnesses had addressed earlier in terms of the implementation of recommendations, which is always the critical issue. Deputy Mac Lochlainn asked about the working group to oversee the implementation of recommendations, and the witnesses answered that. In part 11 of the recommendations, at recommendation No. 21, the inspectorate also recommends that the Department of Justice and Equality would consider establishing a criminal justice board. This seems to me a more hands-on model to deal with issues around lapsing of criminal cases and addressing inefficiencies in the processes. Has that recommendation been adopted or does the inspectorate know if it is being considered?
Mr. Mark Toland:
There are three steps in that process. One is a board at a high level, which would include the Commissioner or a nominated deputy, plus the director of the Probation Service - a criminal justice board comprising the operational decision makers across Ireland.
Second, under that level we recommend each division has a criminal justice group which brings all the practitioners together. Therefore, we would have a senior representative from the courts, a senior prosecutor, the senior probation officer and the divisional chief superintendent. These people can then implement the policies of the criminal justice board. Their role is to get through the blockages, to get trials through the courts more quickly and to ensure victims receive better services.
We recommend that the Garda Síochána would have a criminal justice prosecutions unit. Therefore, if a prosecutor wanted to contact somebody about a case, he could contact the criminal justice prosecutions unit. Also, if a victim wanted to find out what was happening in regard to the case, there would be a central unit within that division to provide for that. There would be three tiers - criminal justice units, groups and boards to provide for a more seamless criminal justice system.
Are there any further questions? There is so much in this report that we could probably spend three days discussing it.
I would like to put a few questions. Mention has been made of the opportunity to develop a single intelligence unit for national support services. This concerns intelligence matters, such as those issues that have been observed in France recently and major atrocities. Often, we see a division between State intelligence and security issues and policing issues. Will the delegates comment on how the issue of intelligence is divided and what changes and approaches are recommended in that regard?
Mr. Robert K. Olson:
I will comment on that and Mr. Toland can follow up on what I say afterwards. We were cognisant of this issue as we conducted that portion of the report. It was interesting that the national units had never been inspected or audited previously. It was a bit of a culture shock when we showed up, but they were great and co-operated fully and told us what they were doing. This included any issues that might touch upon terrorism, national security and so on. We made some confidential recommendations to the Minister relative to this issue, but that should not be made public.
The short answer is we looked at those kinds of issues and made some recommendations on them. Perhaps Mr. Toland would like to comment further on this.
Mr. Mark Toland:
I must be careful not to compromise tactics. The national support units deal with issues like drugs and fraud and within those units there are a number of operational units that have their own intelligence unit, sometimes within the same building. There are economies of scale and efficiencies to be made and a better way to manage intelligence within national support services would be to have a single intelligence unit. Sitting above that, we could have another intelligence unit that would manage the more sensitive issues and security information.
At the level we are talking, which concerns operational investigations into drug smuggling and such issues, we suggest one unit would service those operational units far better and reduce the risk of two operational units looking at the same person and not knowing they were covering the same target. Our recommendations are to stop those kinds of things from happening.
Ms Debra Kirby:
Ireland is unique because the Garda Síochána covers both national and local policing. This creates certain challenges around State security and intelligence. When we speak about intelligence within that context, this immediately concerns a higher level. In the United States, we have had what are known as "fusion centres" in place for a number of years. Basically, these centres bridge the divide relative to local and national intelligence. The idea is that criminal intelligence sometimes feeds into national security issues and national security issues sometimes look at individuals also. This is part of what we have seen happening in France.
The idea of collating and creating a single source of intelligence which more easily feeds up and down the chain relative to who needs to know what is more effective, rather than having multiple individual local units of intelligence that might create barriers to the sharing of information and allowing us know who the real targets are and at what level.
Mr. Mark Toland:
There are some successful schemes. Some 50% of the neighbourhood watch schemes operate in Dublin. In rural parts, these schemes tend to be called "community alert" schemes, but they are equivalent. These schemes are fantastic, because they engage the communities in looking after themselves and in getting involved in policing and looking after vulnerable neighbours. When I lived in London, I was a co-ordinator of such schemes. This involved a huge amount of work, probably more work than I did as a police officer, but it was very rewarding. The community pulled together and became more vigilant and looked after each other's property.
Therefore, it is a win-win situation for the police service in getting people involved in policing and helping with crime prevention.
We have seen some excellent successes where the community has rung in with resulting prevention of crime or arrests of suspects. Many neighbourhood watches start off with great enthusiasm, but if they are successful the enthusiasm tends to wane. Approximately 30% of neighbourhood watches are described as dormant. While they are operating in that they have signs up, people may have lost a bit of interest. One must also ensure that one's neighbourhood watches are in the right area. Are they in the hot spots for crime? If not, one should focus on developing new watches or community alert schemes in areas that suffer from crime. As one needs the police to provide information, attend meetings every so often and encourage people to property mark, there is a key role for local community officers to encourage the starting of schemes.
I acknowledge that it is a great deal of work, but it is very rewarding. Internationally, a good neighbourhood watch will impact on crime levels and make the community more alert and aware. Criminals do not want to operate in an area where people are marking property and are vigilant. They would rather go where there are less vigilant neighbours. I am a huge supporter, therefore, but note that it is not a one off. There are some 4,000 to 5,000 schemes in operation and 30% of them could be working more effectively. I would develop schemes in areas that are currently being attacked by criminals who feel free to operate in, for example, isolated rural communities. I am a member of my local community alert scheme. It is a very important thing to do.
Co-ordination between the Courts Service, the DPP, the Probation Service and so on has been raised. We hear anecdotal complaints from members of the public about how a garda must spend all day in court only to have a case adjourned with resulting time and resource waste and management issues. Mr. Olson has some things to say on that. Could he outline his points?
Mr. Robert K. Olson:
We have mentioned that issue in several reports. I remember clearly that resource allocation has always been a problem. While it may have changed, at one point in time at least 25% of Garda overtime was for cops sitting around in court rooms with people rarely having to get up. In this crime inspection, we found several areas of issue, particularly where expert witnesses are called and sit there all darned day. One has just lost a whole day of an expert in ballistics. They are not checking any guns, but are sitting in court. That is why we have made recommendations that have to have everybody together. We are going to try to look at that issue specific to An Garda Síochána in the Haddington Road review. There will be recommendations relevant to that whole court process. However, as we have said in this and our previous inspection, one has to bring all of the players to the table. It is not just An Garda Síochána. Something that one agency does can impact on another agency. If they are not talking to each other, they will not even know they had those impacts. We are hopeful that will get worked out.
Mr. Mark Toland:
There is a great deal of work that can be done to speed up a case from the minute a crime takes place to get it into the criminal justice system, if that is the right avenue for a particular crime. One of the things that is being done in the Circuit Court on the more serious offences is to have pre-trial hearings where parties are brought together a month before the trial date to ensure that the case is ready to go. Have witnesses been warned, summonses been served, and all information disclosed so that when the parties come to court on the first day of trial everything is ready to go? It is something that could be rolled out to the District Court - it is used in other jurisdictions - to ensure that cases are trial-ready.
So much time is wasted. Professional witnesses are brought in and people who have given up a day of work attend to find that a case does not go ahead because a document or a witness has not been served. If I was a witness, I would be frustrated that I had come to court. It is not effective. People should have to come to court on the day to give evidence and be released. Many trials take place with video evidence, particularly where doctors have to give medical evidence which they can do via video link from their hospitals. We recommend in our report that technology could reduce much of the time professional witnesses, people who live a long distance away or a garda who works in Kerry and must come to Dublin would have to spend in court. That could be done through a video conference so that they are lost to policing or other work for an hour or two rather than a day or a day and a half.
We have given it a good run. At least, we dipped our toe in the water. There is so much there and it is so comprehensive. Again, I join with colleagues in congratulating the Garda Inspectorate on the fantastic work it has done on this and thanking the witnesses for their time here today. I echo the points made by Mr. Olson at the beginning that the rank and file of the gardaí do such good work, work very hard and very often put their lives and bodies on the line for the rest of us. I saw three gardaí on Grafton Street early this morning and I said that it was great to see gardaí out there. I take Mr. Olson's point. One sees gardaí on the beat and it gives us all that good feeling that they are there and looking out for us. They do so much, not just front-line work. So much goes on in policing. It is very comprehensive. I have no doubt that we will meeting with the Garda Inspectorate again in the future. There is so much happening in this area.