Tuesday, 10 December 2019
Department of Justice and Equality
253. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the length of time responses to certain parliamentary questions are taking in view of the fact that certain parliamentary questions relating to crime statistics have gone unanswered for over a year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51300/19]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 252 and 253 together.
I refer to the Deputy’s previous questions 3606/19 of 24 January 2019 and 45496/18 of 6 November 2018 in which information was requested on the number of all detected sexual offences as recorded by An Garda Síochána in specific categories in each of the years 2004 to 2017 in tabular form.
I would first point out that the Central Statistics Office (CSO), as the national statistical agency, is responsible for the compilation and publication of all crime statistics. The CSO produces these statistics using data including data recorded on An Garda Síochána’s PULSE system. CSO Recorded Crime statistics are wholly dependent on PULSE data.
In light of quality issues in relation to PULSE data, the CSO took the decision in early 2017 to postpone further publication of recorded crime statistics.
While CSO resumed publication of recorded crime statistics, it has done so in a new category entitled ‘Under Reservation’.
The CSO has confirmed that this classification has been applied to reflect the fact that there are data quality issues in the underlying sources used to compile the statistics. The CSO has further indicated that this approach of differentiating statistics based on quality concerns associated with the underlying data is consistent with other jurisdictions.
The CSO is engaging with An Garda Síochána to set out the criteria for the lifting of the reservation. These criteria will address quality concerns across a broader range of issues. They will address issues such as data governance, training, crime data recording procedures and the auditing and monitoring of data quality.
Last week I noted the publication of a new statistical release by the CSO on Recorded Crime Detection 2018, the data of which is categorised as ‘under reservation’. I welcome the fact that improvements in An Garda Síochána, in particular in terms of data governance including upgrade of the Pulse system had facilitated preparation and publication of this report by the CSO. The report provides a snapshot of the extent to which crimes reported to An Garda Síochána in 2018 have been detected. Detection is understood in this context as identification and sanction of at least one suspected offender; or, in a very limited set of circumstances, a verified exception whereby an offender is not directly sanctioned because, for example, the DPP decides that prosecution is not in the public interest or the suspected offender dies prior to any prosecution.
In publishing this report, the CSO explicitly confirmed that the report constituted a 'significant break' in the previous series for measuring crime detection rates in Ireland. This means that detection rates set out in the CSO report issued for 2018 are not comparable with figures published in earlier years.
The report is available at the following link:
The Deputy will appreciate that, given the pause in reporting on this issue by the CSO, it was not possible for me to provide a response to the issue raised in her earlier Parliamentary Question. For the same reason it is difficult to provide data at this point for the earlier years referred to.
However it is important to note that the most recent CSO report was made possible by progress in An Garda Síochána, which has improved the quality and consistency of recording of crime data. This establishes a reliable baseline against which operational decisions can be considered by An Garda Síochána and further progress can be ensured and measured. As the Deputy may be aware, the Policing Authority is responsible for overseeing the performance of An Garda Síochána of its functions relating to policing services, and accordingly has the primary oversight role in relation to these matters, including any issues arising from the historical inaccuracies in the recording of detections on PULSE. The welcome clarity which the CSO has brought to this issue through this new and more reliable assessment of detections will be of assistance to the Authority in that independent oversight task and will also be of assistance to An Garda Síochána as it continues to improve the policing services it provides nationwide.